ATLANTA – A banker from Blue Ridge defeated the widow of former Georgia House Speaker David Ralston Tuesday in a runoff election for Ralston’s Northwest Georgia House seat.

Republican Johnny Chastain captured 52.8% of the vote to 47.2% for Sheree Ralston, according to unofficial results.

The seat became vacant when Ralston died in November at the age of 68. He had served as House speaker for a dozen years.

Chastain and Sheree Ralston were the top two vote getters in a special election in early January. But the race was forced into a runoff when neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote.

Several other special elections for vacant seats in the General Assembly also took place on Tuesday.

Former state Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, easily won a seat in the Georgia Senate over two other candidates. Watson declared for the Senate after former Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, took a position as chief medical officer with the state Department of Community Health.

Colquitt County Administrator Charles “Chas” Cannon was elected to succeed Watson in the House. Cannon, a Republican, ran unoppose

The other special election contested on Tuesday won’t be decided until a Feb. 28 runoff. Republicans Holt Persinger and Charlie Chase received the most votes in a seven-way race for the House District 119 seat.

Persinger, a landscape architect from Winder, received 27.9% of the vote to 25.5% for Chase, a contractor also from Winder.

The seat opened up after then-Rep.-elect Danny Rampey was arrested in December and charged with stealing prescription drugs from an assisted living complex he was managing in Winder. Rampey chose to resign the seat he had just won in November rather than face being suspended from the legislature.

The 119th House District includes all of Barrow County and a portion of Jackson County.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.