Republicans renominate David Ralston as Georgia House Speaker

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Republican members of the Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly renominated David Ralston as the chamber’s speaker on Monday.

Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, defeated Buford Republican state Rep. David Clark with a vote of 90-2, officials said. Ralston has led the chamber since 2010 and is expected to be reelected when lawmakers return in January since his party holds a majority.

“I’m excited about moving forward with this caucus, and I’m excited about working with all of you as we prepare for next session,” Ralston said after his win.

He then called on Republicans to unite behind Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both are in runoff elections in January. Ralston had been a vocal supporter of Loeffler’s Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, in the election last week.

Before the vote, Ralston recounted legislative wins, such as the passage of a hate-crimes law and extending health care benefits for low-income mothers to tackle the state’s maternal mortality rate. He also pointed to $5 million raised by the caucus to protect Republican members from Democratic challenges.

House Democrats had hoped to flip at least 16 seats to take control of the chamber for the first time in 15 years.

However, that was always a long shot, and Democrats were massively outspent by Republicans. Nonetheless, Ralston chided Democrats and spoke as if Republicans were underdogs last week.

“Let me ask you, how does it feel to beat the odds?” Ralston said to the room of Republicans. "The ‘blue wave,’ when it got to this House of Representatives, was a squirt gun last week.”

Clark called Ralston a dictator who bullied Republican colleagues into doing his will.

“You have a dictator and not a leader who fights about topics (and) who lets us each to represent our own diverse districts,” Clark said.

Clark made headlines last year when he led a group of 10 Republican lawmakers who asked Ralston, a defense attorney, to step down as speaker after an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News found he frequently delayed criminal cases by claiming court dates interfered with his legislative duties.

Republican members also reappointed the rest of the chamber’s GOP leadership.

House Democrats are scheduled to elect their caucus leadership Tuesday.