Banker tops Ralston widow in Georgia House race; Watson wins


ATLANTA (AP) — A north Georgia banker defeated the widow of late House Speaker David Ralston to win Ralston's old House seat in a Republican runoff Tuesday, while a Republican former House member cruised to victory in a state Senate seat in south Georgia.

In other final, unofficial results from four legislative special elections, two Republicans will advance to a Feb. 28 runoff in a northeast Georgia House district, while a Republican was unopposed in winning a south Georgia House district.

The banker Johnny Chastain overcame development authority leader Sheree Ralston in House District 7 despite Ralston's fundraising lead and endorsements by Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

David Ralston, who died in November, had represented the district. It includes Fannin, Gilmer and part of Dawson counties. Sheree Ralston and Chastain had advanced to a runoff, after leading a five-candidate field on Jan. 3.

In south Georgia’s Senate District 11, Republican Sam Watson of Moultrie cruised past Democrat Mary Weaver-Anderson and Libertarian John Monds, both of Cairo.

Watson will take over the seat representing Brooks, Colquitt, Cook, Decatur, Grady, Seminole and Thomas counties. It became vacant after Republican Sen. Dean Burke stepped down to become chief medical officer of Georgia’s Department of Community Health.

Watson resigned from his House District 172 seat to run for Senate. There, Colquitt County Administrator Charles “Chas” Cannon won an unopposed victory as a Republican in a district including Colquitt and parts of Thomas and Cook counties.

Chastain, Watson and Cannon will be able to join the General Assembly as soon as their elections are certified. Lawmakers are meeting through March.

In House District 119, which includes most of Barrow County and a corner of Jackson County, Republicans Holt Persinger and Charlie Chase advanced to a Feb. 28 runoff after Persinger and Chase led a seven-candidate field, each winning more than 25% of the vote.

Persinger, a landscape architect from Winder, and Chase, a contractor from Winder, want to succeed Danny Rampey, who withdrew without taking office after being arrested on drug and theft charges.

One more of Georgia's 180 House seats is vacant. Voters in House District 75 will go to the polls on March 21 to select a replacement for Democratic Rep. Mike Glanton of Jonesboro, who stepped down for health reasons earlier this month after serving 14 years in the House in two separate stints. An April runoff could follow if no one wins a majority.