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Long-serving Georgia House Speaker to step down

Austin Steele

A major player in Georgia politics is stepping down from his role.

House Speaker David Ralston says he is resigning as speaker at the end of this year. The 68-year-old Republican who has been speaker since 2010 made the announcement Friday citing health concerns.

“I owe a heartfelt thank you to my colleagues for the trust and confidence they placed in me thirteen years ago,” said Ralston. “I need to take time to address a health challenge which has arisen recently, and the House needs a Speaker who can devote the necessary time and energy to the office.”

Ralston is running unopposed for his north Georgia district, and will serve out the remainder of his term.

Republicans currently hold a 103-76 majority in Georgia's House, with one seat vacant. The whole House will elect a speaker when it convenes Jan. 9, but the House Republican caucus will pick a nominee who's likely to win the office in the days after Tuesday's election.

Among Republicans who might run are House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones of Milton, House Majority Leader Jon Burns of Newington, Rep. Barry Fleming of Harlem and House Majority Whip Matt Hatchett of Dublin.

Ralston was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 1992 when Democrats were in the majority. He lost a race for attorney general to Democrat Thurbert Baker in 1998 before being elected to the House in 2002. He is currently the longest-serving state house speaker in the United States.