Sarah Beeson

Sarah Beeson.

Occupation: Small business executive

Previous elected offices held: None.

Other community service experience: Statewide President, Young Democrats of Georgia; Board Member, Advance Atlanta; Leadership Council, National Small Business Administration.

What is motivating you to run for this office?

As a mother running a small family business in Roswell, I noticed a void that needed to be filled in representing folks like us here in north Fulton. All the more frustrating is how our current elected leaders block constituents on social media or refuse to hold public forums while legislating on our behalf — it flies in the face of our American values. I decided to step up and run to be the 56th District’s next state senator because I believe north Fulton deserves fair, transparent, accessible leadership at the Georgia Capitol.

What is the biggest issue facing the district and how will you address it?

Georgians need access to high-quality, affordable healthcare now more than ever. With the state ranking the worst in the nation for maternal mortality (mothers dying while pregnant or shortly after birth) and rural hospitals closing at alarming rates, lawmakers need to act fast. Before COVID, 1 out of every 7 residents in north Fulton lacked access to health insurance. Given the sudden spike in unemployment, that number has surely risen as the recently unemployed lose access to their employer-provided insurance. It’s time for our leaders to stop playing politics when the lives of millions of Georgians are on the line.

Why should voters choose you instead of the incumbent?

I am running to bring transparency and accountability to this position. As someone who values what it means to be a public servant, I look forward to many conversations across the political spectrum to truly understand constituents’ needs. I’m educated: I have an MBA from the University of Georgia and master’s in environmental management from the University of Maryland. I’m experienced: in addition to running a small business, I have worked in nonprofit advocacy and served in leadership positions for both national and statewide organizations. I’m empathetic: as a mother of two young children, listening is my strongest skill.

What would be your policy priority in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic?

Implementing a statewide mandate requiring masks will save thousands of lives and pave the way for a quicker economic recovery. Additionally, the state of Georgia needs to allocate funding for an economic relief package for loans and grants to support small businesses — one of the largest sectors of non-public employers in the state. The fact we are six months into a pandemic and while the rest of the world recovers we continue to struggle with controlling spread, stabilizing the economy, and providing aid to people and businesses in need is not only reprehensible, but a stark call for new leadership.

What state law changes, if any, should follow as a result of this year’s protests about racism and police brutality?

While my appreciation is unwavering for law enforcement officers who place their lives on the line to protect and serve, I believe there should be accountability for those who fall short of their oath. I support making legislative changes such as making no-knock warrants illegal, requiring body cameras for all police departments, reviewing training and de-escalation tactics, implementing accountability measures for officer misconduct, and prevention from re-hiring officers dismissed on the grounds of misconduct. If elected, I look forward to working with law enforcement organizations and first responders to create effective, fair legislation based on these objectives.

What is an under-the-radar issue that needs more attention in the next legislative session?

After the U.S. Census is counted each decade, the Georgia General Assembly uses this information to re-draw legislative district lines the following year. Because lawmakers draw their own district lines to avoid being voted out, this is akin to a player refereeing their own game. In the 2021 session, I encourage our lawmakers to support the creation of a non-partisan, non-elected entity to draw fair, proportionate district lines in the spirit of democracy. In this same vein, we need to revisit the accuracy and security of Georgia’s new voting machines — which are currently being challenged in federal court.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.