A Buckhead Democrat has announced her campaign to challenge state Rep. Beth Beskin, a Republican, in this year’s election.

Betsy Holland, a longtime Turner Broadcasting Inc. employee and Garden Hills resident, said the main issues her campaign will focus on are access to healthcare and public education and improving the region’s infrastructure and traffic congestion. Holland also sits on the Board of Governors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, an experience she says has made her knowledgeable on the state’s economy and business interests.

Betsy Holland.

Beskin, who has represented the district since 2013, said she intends to run for re-election and she is looking forward to campaigning.

“I’m prepared to have a vigorous election season and I look forward to the campaign,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed representing all of the district, not just those who voted for me.”

Holland said she is wary of exempting seniors from school taxes, and would have to first find another funding source to ensure the schools would stay adequately funded. The tax exemption has been called for after Fulton County residents’ property assessments sharply increased in 2017.

“I’m not in favor of gutting funds that go to our public schools,” Holland said.

Holland is the latest candidate to announce a run for a seat that has been held by a Republican. Progressive groups, such as PaveItBlue, which formed last year in Cobb County and Roswell, encourage residents to challenge Republican seats and circulate a chart that keeps track of districts that are being challenged or still need a challenger.

Holland said that, “like many other people,” she got more interested in politics since Donald Trump won the presidential election. Realizing that his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, won District 54 by 4 percent, Holland said she thought the seat could be won by a Democrat.

“It looked vulnerable and like if a compelling candidate ran, it could be flipped,” she said. “I was not interested in running for the sake of running. My district voted for Clinton in the 2016 election at 54 percent. This indicates that the district is winnable for a Democrat. It played a significant role in my decision to run.”

District 54 includes the middle of Buckhead and the area between Roswell Road and the Brookhaven border, including the commercial district along Ga. 400.

Beskin said she stands by every vote she has made since being elected, and is prepared to defend those votes during the campaign.

State Rep. Beth Beskin.

“I’ve voted each vote deliberately and after much thought. I made sure I voted for the best interest of all of my constituents,” Beskin said.

Candidates will be able to qualify for the election between March 5 and 9. Holland could have to face other Democratic candidates in the May 22 primary and not have the chance to challenge Beskin in the November elections. No other candidates have announced a run for this district so far.
Holland said experience overseeing Turner’s community outreach, corporate philanthropy, government affairs and environmental sustainability programs have given her an understanding of the community’s needs and problems.

“I’ve got a sense of what issues affect our community,” she said.

If elected, Holland said she will work to make health insurance more accessible to temper the closures of hospitals in many rural counties.

“The state of healthcare in rural Georgia is concerning,” she said.

And when those hospitals close, metro Atlanta is affected, Holland said. People leave those counties and business doesn’t grow there, she said.

“When all of a county’s hospitals close, that’s going to trickle back to the metro area,” she said.

Holland also said she would prioritize expanding transit instead of roads.

“I’d like for us to invest in solutions that aren’t widening roads or building new roads,” she said. “I think we have to be open to options that aren’t driving alone.”

She said she would also encourage innovative solutions to decreasing congestion, including allowing self-driving car manufacturers to test the cars in Atlanta.

In her position at the Chamber, Holland chairs the Creative Economy Committee, which focuses on growing business in Georgia in such fields as production, film and television. The tax credits offered to those businesses to film in Georgia have been a “boon” for the industry, Holland said. If elected, she would work to expand those credits.

“This is a 21st century industry. This is the wave of the future,” she said of the film and television industry.