Just days after the funeral for House Speaker David Ralston, his widow, Sheree Ralston, announced that she will run to succeed him in the Georgia House.
Sheree Ralston said in a statement Wednesday that she’s running to “complete the unfinished work of my husband,” both in the solidly Republican North Georgia district he represented from 2003 until his death Nov. 16 and on the issue of mental health care.
“David was our champion and voice at the Capitol,” she said, “and, if elected, that’s what I intend to be as well.”
Sheree Ralston is well-known in the Blue Ridge-based district she’s seeking to represent and at the state Capitol, both as David Ralston’s wife and as the executive director of the Fannin County Development Authority.
She was a frequent presence at the speaker’s side, including during the March vote by the House to approve his measure to expand mental health and addiction treatment programs in the state. David Ralston often said his wife pushed him to address the complicated issue.
Despite her high profile, Sheree Ralston won’t have the election field to herself. Brian K. Pritchard, the head of FetchYourNews.com, announced Monday that he will also seek the seat as a Republican. He said Wednesday that he was unfazed by his rival.
“We are a republic, not a monarchy. House seats are nontransferable,” Pritchard said. “It’s not up to Atlanta to pick a successor, it’s up to the people of the 7th District to decide who they want to represent them.”
Gov. Brian Kemp has set the date for the special election for Jan. 3. The winner will represent the district for the full 2023-2024 legislative session.
Because state law requires the governor to quickly set the date for a special election, the typically monthslong campaign process will be compressed to just a few weeks during the height of the holiday season.
It is not unheard of in U.S. politics for widows to run to succeed their late spouses in office.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, succeeded her late husband, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, after he retired. And Former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono won the special election to complete the unexpired term of the late U.S. Rep. Sonny Bono.
In a rare move, Kemp immediately endorsed Sheree Ralston’s candidacy, saying there’s “no one better” to serve the district.
“Sheree’s passion for mental health reform and experience creating greater opportunity for the citizens of her community uniquely qualify her to be a strong voice for the hardworking Georgians of Fannin, Gilmer and Dawson counties in the state House.”