The Jolt: House Speaker David Ralston’s outlook for 2022′s hottest topics

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
211103-ATLANTA-House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) speaks to journalists after the first day of the Legislative special session Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

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211103-ATLANTA-House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) speaks to journalists after the first day of the Legislative special session Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens isn’t sworn in yet, but he has already pinpointed which non-Atlantan in the state Capitol holds the power over much of the city’s future in the state Capitol: House Speaker David Ralston.

In a speech in Buckhead this week, Dickens called Ralston a “good key” who could lock up the Buckhead cityhood legislation.

The Speaker could close the door – or keep it open – for plenty of other measures in 2022, too.

In an interview Thursday, Ralston said he still hasn’t decided whether to back a referendum that would allow Buckhead residents to call it quits with Atlanta, adding that he’ll continue to weigh the issue through New Year’s Day.

We asked him about other contentious issues sure to come through the chamber, too.

He said he is open to supporting “constitutional carry,” a gun rights expansion which generally involves letting gun owners conceal and carry handguns without a permit, which is now required by Georgia law.

To Ralston, though, the scope of that legislation is still up in the air.

“It means different things to different people,” he said of the proposal. “And there are some versions that have some appeal to me and satisfy folks who have strong feelings about it. We’ll have some dialogue.”

The Republican was firmer on shutting down talk about new anti-abortion legislation next year. He said the only way he’ll support that idea is if a Supreme Court decision weakening abortion rights is handed down during the session.

“We’d be well served to wait on that guidance,” he said of the High Court’s pending decision, which is expected this summer.

Ralston also had a blanket warning about the election-year whirlwind of red-meat legislation that could get kicked up during the showdown between Gov. Brian Kemp and former U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

“I spent a lot of years here trying to protect our brand and enhance the economic development stature of our state,” Ralston said. “And I don’t intend to be caught up in someone else’s campaign and put that in jeopardy.”

Message sent.


Speaker David Ralston also weighed in on where he stands on the brawl shaping up between Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue. Not surprisingly, Ralston is steering clear.

“I’m for a united Republican Party and I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Speaker of the House to weigh in on another branch of government,” he said, adding that “getting involved is a distraction.”




After he was elected, Mayor-elect Andre Dickens said he had a list of about 20 people to work through, including leaders of the Buckhead cityhood movement, our City Hall team reported this week.

To that, the Buckhead Committee leader Bill White responds: Where’s our call?

“We haven’t heard a peep,” White said in an interview with the Jolt early morning Friday. “I just think that’s indicative of where he puts the Buckhead city movement, it’s way down on his list.”

White continued, “He said we were going to be one of his top 20 calls. And I would think if Buckhead City departing Atlanta was going to be so catastrophic, as they all say, to the city of Atlanta, in my mind thinking that he would put this in like the top three calls with people.”

White also said that Election Day has been a boon to his group’s fundraising, he said has approached $200,000 in commitments in the last two weeks.

We reviewed a single check for $100,000 made out to the Buckhead City Committee since Election Day, along with two five-figure commitments from members of the Buckhead Coalition, which is opposing Buckhead Cityhood as an organization.


While the Buckhead cityhood proposal is being debated, we’ve heard speculation for months that a similar cityhood effort could be budding in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood.

A new website for the “Midtown Exploratory Committee” has recently gone up announcing an effort to consider a new Midtown City, including the Midtown, Ansley Park, Morningside and Virginia Highlands neighborhoods, which could similarly try to break away from the City of Atlanta.

“We prefer Buckhead and Midtown to remain in the City of Atlanta,” it says. “Should Buckhead City vote to incorporate, our objective will be to enable Midtown and surrounding immediate neighborhoods to quickly take advantage of this emerging opportunity and create another independent city to improve the lives and wellbeing of its residents.”

No name or contact information are provided and, curiously, it says it is “actively monitoring the review and approval criteria for Buckhead City, in particular David Perdue’s advocacy for self-determination.”


A super PAC backing Senate hopeful Herschel Walker is up with a new digital ad today hitting U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock for spiking inflation and rising gas prices.

The tag line, “Warnock isn’t working.”


In 2022 announcement news:

  • State Sen. Michelle Au announced Friday morning she’s running for election in the Georgia state House in HD-50, instead of the state Senate district 48, which Republican leaders redrew to be more conservative.

“Maybe I’m making too much sense to too many people so they want me out,” Au said in her announcement. “But I am not done yet.”

  • Republican state Rep. Charlice Byrd is challenging Republican state Sen. Kay Kirkpatick in a race for a state Senate seat in East Cobb and southwest Cherokee County.

Byrd announced her candidacy this week. She previously worked for the Trump campaign in 2015 and 2016, took office in the Georgia House in January. Kirkpatrick is an orthopaedic hand surgeon who has represented Senate District 32 since 2017.


Several bipartisan county election boards have been replaced following bills passed in the Georgia General Assembly this year.

The changes are having serious consequences, according to a Reuters’ report, “Georgia Republicans purge Black Democrats from county election boards.”


“The county board restructurings and statewide voting restrictions, Democrats and voting-rights groups say, represent the most sweeping changes in decades to Georgia’s electoral system. Until 2013, Georgia elections operated under federal oversight to ensure fair participation for Black voters in this once-segregated Southern state.”

State legislators passed bills that gave commissions in five of those counties -- all of which are controlled by Republicans – the power to appoint some or all of their election board members. Previously, appointments were made by local Democratic and Republican parties, or by other local entities. In Spalding County, political parties and a judge chose board members.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on legislation eliminating bipartisan county election boards in February.


State Sen. Jason Anavitarte plans to pre-file legislation today that would authorize the display of a statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the statehouse grounds.

The first-term Republican’s proposal, a concept also endorsed by House Speaker David Ralston, has already picked up about 34 co-sponsors in the Senate. That’s enough to easily pass muster in the chamber.

Thomas, a Georgia native who is the court’s longest serving justice, is also the nation’s second Black Supreme Court justice. He is a reliable conservative vote who sees himself as an originalist dedicated to interpreting the Constitution as the Founders intended it.


On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans, plus two Democrats (Montana’s Jon Tester and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin), approved a bill that would block vaccine mandates for private businesses implemented by President Joe Biden.

The legislation is unlikely to get a vote on the House floor on the vote, where the Republican minority has few tools to force an issue without Democratic support. And even if the House were to pass the measure, the White House has already said it would be vetoed.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are pushing a separate measure to block vaccine mandates for healthcare providers.

Co-sponsors of this bill include all eight Georgia GOP members: Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Andrew Clyde, Drew Ferguson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jody Hice, Barry Loudermilk and Austin Scott.


The City of Savannah will boost pay for city workers to at least $15/ hour, Mayor Van Johnson announced Thursday.

The new minimum wage will kick in January 1 and be a huge boost from the state-set minimum wage, which is $5.15/ hour, and the prevailing federal minimum wage, which is $7.25.


POSTED: A federal judge ruled Thursday against state Republican leaders, who wanted eight pending lawsuits against Georgia’s new voting law to be dismissed, the AJC’s Mark Niesse reports.

Boulee denied arguments from the state of Georgia that the cases should be thrown out because of legal issues including whether the plaintiffs had a right to sue, suffered an injury or stated a claim for relief.

The merits of the cases will be determined after facts and evidence are presented in the case, Boulee wrote.


In endorsement news, former U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland backed U.S. Senate candidate Gray Black’s campaign to oust Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock at an event that drew about 200 supporters.


For your planner: U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, is hosting a telephone town hall meeting Monday to discuss housing assistance for landlords and renters, along with an update on the new infrastructure funding law and the Build Back Better legislation that Congress is still finalizing.

The meeting will be held from 5:30-6:40 p.m.. Ask questions and RSVP here. The meeting will also be streamed on Johnson’s Facebook page.


Insider’s note: Yes, Bluestein almost ran away with it.


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