Sheree Ralston

ATLANTA – The widow of the late Georgia House Speaker David Ralston is headed into a runoff in a special election for Ralston’s Northwest Georgia House seat.

Sheree Ralston, executive director of the Fannin County Development Authority, received 45% of the vote Tuesday in a five-way race in House District 7. Fellow Republican Johnny Chastain, a banker, finished second with 39%, well ahead of three other candidates who were held to single digits.

Since neither Ralston nor Chastain won a majority of the vote, the two will head to a runoff on Jan. 31 to decide the winner in District 7, which includes Fannin and Gilmer counties and part of Dawson County.

David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, died in November at the age of 68 following an extended illness. He had served as House speaker for 12 years.

Just two days before his death, Ralston announced he would not seek another two-year term as speaker. The House Republican Caucus has nominated Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington, to step up to speaker when the General Assembly convenes next week.

The full House will vote on Burns’ nomination on Monday, the opening day of the 2023 legislative session.

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