Georgia House speaker bans senator from chamber for ‘vile’ comments

State Sen. Colton Moore was reprimanded for disparaging comments about late Speaker David Ralston
State Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, was banned from entering the chambers Georgia House on Thursday. House Speaker Jon Burns said the senator made "vile" remarks against David Ralston on the day the late speaker was being honored. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

State Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, was banned from entering the chambers Georgia House on Thursday. House Speaker Jon Burns said the senator made "vile" remarks against David Ralston on the day the late speaker was being honored. (Natrice Miller/

On a day lawmakers celebrated the late House Speaker David Ralston, his successor banned a state senator from entering the chamber in the future for making what he called “vile” comments about the former speaker.

Members of Ralston’s family and community were in the Capitol on Thursday as the House unveiled a portrait that will be hung in the chamber, and the Senate considered a resolution urging the University of North Georgia to name a new academic facility being built on its Blue Ridge campus after the former speaker, who died in 2022.

But state Sen. Colton Moore, a Trenton Republican and former state House member, used the debate over Senate Resolution 687 to take shots at Ralston, who had previously targeted him for electoral defeat.

Gov. Brian Kemp gives remarks Thursday as Speaker Jon Burns looks on after the unveiling of a portrait of the late House Speaker David Ralston on what would have been his 70th birthday. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

The move led to rebukes from the lieutenant governor, Senate president pro tem and other Republican colleagues and resulted in House Speaker Jon Burns saying Moore was no longer allowed in the House chamber.

“A member of the Senate, the senator from the 53rd District, took it upon himself to go to the well of the Senate and make some of the vilest comments you can make about a good man,” Burns said.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega Republican who sponsored the resolution to honor Ralston, said he was surprised the debate became so controversial. Ralston lived in Gooch’s district.

“Unfortunately, some of the past run-ins between Sen. Moore and the late speaker — it’s still a sore subject for the senator and he took an opportunity to lash out at the speaker,” Gooch said. “And it was just not appropriate. It was very unprofessional and probably the meanest thing I’ve seen anybody do in this chamber in the 14 years I’ve served.”

Moore used his floor speech to reference a 2019 investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that found Ralston, who was a defense attorney, appeared to use a policy called “legislative leave” to perpetually keep cases off the docket, potentially thwarting justice and putting the public at risk. Legislative leave is a 120-year-old policy that requires judges and prosecutors to defer to the legislative schedule of any practicing attorney who serves in the General Assembly.

“This body is about to immortalize, in my opinion, one of the most corrupt Georgians we’ve seen in our lives,” Moore said.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones stopped Moore from reading his prepared remarks, encouraging him to sit down, and both he and President Pro Tem John Kennedy condemned Moore for what they said was the poor timing of his remarks.

“There is a time and a place for everything,” Jones said. “I don’t like cutting members off for speaking their mind, (but) whatever personal grievances you might have, pick the (right) moment in time when you want to express those, because today was not one of them.”

While serving in the House, Moore was one of a handful of Republican colleagues who had called for Ralston to step down as speaker after the AJC investigation. Because of that, Moore put himself in Ralston’s crosshairs, putting his reelection into question.

Moore resigned from the House and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2020. Two years later, he won the seat.

It’s not the first time Moore has been publicly reprimanded by members of his party. Last fall, the Senate Republican leadership suspended Moore from being part of the chamber’s caucus. Moore had called for a special session to defund the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in response to her indictment of former President Donald Trump, but it was his consistent public berating of his colleagues for not following suit that caused them to remove him from the caucus.

Moore said the debate on the resolution was a fair time for him to bring up the accusations against Ralston while he was a defense attorney.

“I wasn’t impugning the character of David Ralston, but I was certainly saying the facts and, from my perspective, how he used his position of authority in a very corrupt way,” Moore said in an interview. “It wasn’t that he was defending the people in these cases, but he was protecting them from facing justice.”

The last person to be banned from the chamber was state Rep. David Clark, a Buford Republican, who in 2021 refused to adhere to the chamber’s COVID-19 policies. Ralston had him removed from the chamber and would not let him return until he took the mandated biweekly COVID-19 tests.

Gooch said while he commended Burns’ decision to ban Moore from the House, he didn’t expect a similar move to be made in the Senate.

Burns directed House Doorkeeper Cory Mulkey to keep Moore from entering the chamber going forward.

“I’m going to ask the doorkeeper of this House, Cory Mulkey — no time in the future will the senator from the 53rd be allowed to come into that ante room or any property of the Georgia House,” Burns said. “Cory, you have the orders. We expect you to enforce them.”