‘Vile’ remarks mar day to remember late House Speaker David Ralston 

Chief of Staff Terry England, left, and former Chief of Staff Spiro Amburn unveil the portrait of Speaker David Ralston in the House chamber. (Credit: Georgia House)

Ceremonies in both chambers to honor the late House Speaker David Ralston on Thursday were somewhat marred by a senator’s rant against the former speaker. 

The House celebrated Ralston with a portrait-unveiling ceremony attended  by his family, Gov. Brian Kemp and former governors Nathan Deal and Sonny Perdue and other dignitaries — all of whom made speeches fondly remembering Ralston. 

Ralston served a dozen years as speaker and was, at the time of his November 2022 death, the longest-serving sitting speaker in the country.

“Now I tell you it’s pretty special today that three gentlemen who have led this state that were friends of Speaker Ralston are here to help us pay tribute,” said House Speaker Jon Burns, his voice with emotion. “The measure of a person is built on relationships like this, but more importantly is built on that relationship in caring about the least of us. Speaker Ralston was dedicated to the mental health and well being of the people of this state. His legacy will go on. This House, this General Assembly and this governor will help us foster that legacy.” 

But an hour later, Burns, R-Newington, was fuming after learning of explosive remarks made by state Sen. Colton Moore about Ralston. 

“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, adding that Moore, R-Trenton, will now be banned from the Georgia House chamber for the foreseeable future. 

Moore’s stinging rebuke of Ralston came as the Senate introduced a resolution that would name a building on the University of North Georgia campus after Ralston. During the discussion part of the resolution, Moore  called Ralston “one of the most corrupt Georgia leaders we’ll ever see in our lifetimes.”   

Moore, who’d previously served in the House before being elected to the Senate in 2023,  was one of 10 representatives who called for Ralston’s resignation in 2019 after news reports found that Ralston had used his legislative privilege to mislead judges when   asking for trial extensions for clients of his private practice, some of whom were involved in violent crimes.

“If we're going to name a building after someone, I think we should debate the merits of whether we should name a building after a person or not,” Moore told State Affairs, adding that since Senate leaders suspended the rules that would have led to a debate he felt compelled to make his point when the resolution came to the Senate floor.

“Obviously it's very awkward to highlight how disappointing of a person David Ralston was when his family is there for an unveiling of a portrait. That was not my decision. I did not want to have to make those comments [Thursday],” said Moore. “At the same token, my job as a senator is to be able to debate any resolution that comes before the floor. And obviously, I had to let folks know why I was adamantly and steadfastly opposing naming such a building.”

Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, who introduced Senate Resolution 687, called Moore’s behavior “probably the meanest thing I've seen anybody do in this chamber in the 14 years I've served.”  

“It's very disappointing that he would do that to one of our public officials that served so many years,” Gooch added. “The House took the appropriate action.”

The Senate passed Gooch’s resolution by a vote of 53-1.

Have questions? Contact Jill Jordan Sieder on X @journalistajill or at [email protected] and Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].
And subscribe to State Affairs so you do not miss an update.
Facebook @StateAffairsGA
LinkedIn @StateAffairs

Related Topics: