David Ralston Obituary, Death –  ATLANTA — Less than two weeks after announcing his resignation due to health issues, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston passed away on Wednesday at the age of 68, according to his spokeswoman Kaleb McMichen. In a statement, McMichen simply mentioned that Ralston had passed away following “an extended illness.” During his 13 years in charge of the 180-member House, the Blue Ridge Republican rose to become the second-most influential figure in the Georgia state government. Ralston, a lawyer from the highlands of north Georgia, had expressed hope to stay in the House even after resigning as speaker.

Jon Burns of Newington was put forth by Republicans as Ralston’s replacement when the newly elected General Assembly meets in January. Column: GOP is still in charge in the Georgian Capitol, but substantial changes are coming to the leadership. More:Effingham legislator Jon Burns is running for Georgia Speaker after David Ralston resigned. Ralston changed taxes, spending, and laws as the House’s top leader. For instance, he pushed through significant modifications to the state’s and private insurers’ delivery of mental health services this year. Additionally, he might throw money in the trash, preventing the state from taking control of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2019.

In 1992, while Democrats held the majority, Ralston won his initial election to the Georgia Senate. Before being chosen for the House of Representatives in 2002, he lost the campaign for attorney general in 1998 to Democrat Thurbert Baker. Ralston was modeled after Tom Murphy, a west Georgia Democrat who presided over the House from 1973 to 2003 and held the record for the longest tenure as a state house speaker in the United States at the time of his death. After a turbulent period during which Glenn Richardson, the first Republican speaker in more than 130 years, resigned due to a failed suicide attempt and allegations of an extramarital affair with a lobbyist, Ralston was elected.

In 2008, Ralston ran against Richardson for speaker but lost. Ralston was perceived by some Republicans as being too amenable to Democrats. Ralston was in charge of a wide range of Republican initiatives and was always willing to lower taxes. He boasted of a state income tax decrease that was passed this year and may ultimately save $2 billion in taxes. However, with the passing of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020, he assisted in saving a hate crimes bill from legislative limbo. One of Ralston’s closest friends in the General Assembly, Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur, was his co-sponsor on this year’s mental health legislation. Since Ralston had a close relationship with both her and the departing Democrat Calvin Smyre of Columbus, Democrats could expect a courteous hearing from him and occasionally get some of what they desired in legislation.