Elections 2020: Meet The Georgia Senator, District 56 Candidates

Kathleen Sturgeon

ROSWELL, GA — In addition to voting for president and vice president of the United States in the Nov. 3 general election, voters in North Fulton, will choose other candidates to represent them, including the seat for Georgia Senate, 56th District.

Incumbent John Albers will be running against Sarah Beeson to represent District 56, which encompasses large parts of Alpharetta, Roswell and Milton.

As part of its coverage of the 2020 election, Patch has invited the candidates in contested races to participate in our election profile series. We will continue to update the profiles with links to responses to our questionnaire.

Candidates for Georgia Senate, 56th District

  • John Albers, incumbent

  • Sarah Beeson

Age (as of Election Day)

  • John Albers: 48

  • Sarah Beeson: 31

Party Affiliation:

  • John Albers: Republican

  • Sarah Beeson: Democrat

Family:

  • John Albers: Wife Kari (age 49): 27 years of marriage, sons Will (25) & Ryan (18) + daughter-in-law Gabrielle (24). Both my sons are Eagle Scouts, graduates of Roswell High School and we are members of Roswell United Methodist Church.

  • Sarah Beeson: Husband, Tommy; Sons Turner (3 years old) and Rowan (10 months old)

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?

  • John Albers: Son works for the GBI.

  • Sarah Beeson: No

Education

  • John Albers: Senator Albers earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of Louisville. Albers also completed post graduate programs from the University of Georgia, Legislative Leadership Institute and the Cybersecurity program at Harvard University.

  • Sarah Beeson: Master of Science, Environmental Management (University of Maryland); Master of Business Administration/MBA (University of Georgia); Bachelor of Arts, Journalism minor Political Science (Georgia State University)

Occupation

  • John Albers: Executive, small business owner, 30 years of experience

  • Sarah Beeson: Small Business Executive, 10 years experience

Campaign website

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office

  • John Albers: Current Senator

  • Sarah Beeson: Statewide President, Young Democrats of Georgia
    (Served representing voters under 40 in the Democratic Party of Georgia)

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

  • John Albers: I have authored and sponsored hundreds of important bills. I have directed funding back to our district and served my constituents by solving problems. When the pandemic hit, we starting working 20 plus hours a day I helped author and pass the Business Immunity Bill which helped our businesses and protected employees. I have helped thousands of people with unemployment and SBA loan information. Safety is most important, and I worked to get PPE (gloves, masks, gowns, etc.) to all our hospitals, senior citizen centers and first responders. We need to continue testing this fall and distribute the coming vaccine. I will also continue to champion and support our schools, families, senior citizens, special needs community and businesses during this time.

  • Sarah Beeson: I have been active in the community — serving in leadership positions in business, nonprofit organizations, and within the Democratic Party — for nearly a decade. While holding these leadership positions, I have seamlessly juggled personal commitments such as parenthood and obtaining two Master's degrees. My track record speaks for itself: not only does my day-to-day life look like the lives of many here in Senate District 56, I have been unwavering in my commitment to improving the lives of others.

The single most pressing issue facing our community, and this is what I intend to do about it.

  • John Albers: Currently the biggest issue facing the district is the pandemic. It has caused a major strain on families, schools, senior care, business owners, etc. I worked closely with the Governor and task force to allow for visits to long-term care homes, help our schools, assist small business owners and our special needs community. I have donated my entire legislative salary this year and have been helping with the School Meal Program, Table & Aid and many other civic and faith-based charities. I am inspired by the compassionate work in our community and our greatest day are ahead! Stay positive!

  • Sarah Beeson: 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. I intend to address this issue by working to expand Medicaid, which is more cost-effective and covers more Georgians than Governor Kemp's proposed voucher program. Additionally, I support covering healthcare and lactation support for low income mothers for one year postpartum.

Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?

  • John Albers: I believe all lives matter and we need to assure it for every person. I was proud to vote for the GA Hates Crimes Law to protect everyone and punish criminals to the fullest extent of the law. People have the right to demonstrate and let their voices be heard. However, violence and looting are not acceptable and must also be prosecuted and stopped immediately.

  • Sarah Beeson: I unequivocally believe that Black lives matter and I say to the Black community: I see you and I hear you. In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, I joined Congresswoman McBath and the Roswell Police Chief Conroy to march in solidarity with the Black community. I support Americans' First Amendment right to peacefully protest while condemning any acts of violence. If elected, I will work to address systemic racism that has been codified into Georgia law.

What are your thoughts on the campaign to "defund" the police?

  • John Albers: I support the 99.9% of law enforcement which protect and serve us every day. As the Senate Chairman of Public Safety, I will support all our first responders. If someone breaks the law, they must be help accountable. Public safety must be paramount and we need to fully fund our law enforcement.

  • Sarah Beeson: Defund the police? Absolutely not. I am proud to say that I come from a long line of police officers on both my mother's and father's sides of the family. 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 mandatory body cameras for all police departments in Georgia, reviewing training and deescalation tactics, and implementing accountability measures to ensure fair sentencing for officer misconduct and prevention from rehiring 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 are your thoughts on the state and national response to the coronavirus pandemic? Do you favor such measures as limiting operation of non-essential businesses or restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a nationwide mask mandate?

  • John Albers: I support the work of the Governor and Task Force. Our positive cases have gone down dramatically, our jobs numbers are way up and we are on the road to a full recovery. Other states have double digit unemployment and staggering problems. The Wall Street Journal recognized Georgia as doing it right with our unemployment already down to 5.6% (30% lower than the national average). I believe each state can make their own decisions and I trust our business to be safe and follow the public health protocols.

  • Sarah Beeson: Implementing a nationwide 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. I believe as long as businesses can meet the requirements necessary to socially distance or require masks in the event distancing is not an option, they should be permitted to operate. 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 are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

  • John Albers: I am a professional who serves my district and state. I support the American Dream and personal responsibility. We are in a dangerous moment for our nation and state where some people are embracing socialism, defunding the police and other radical positions. Georgia is leading the nation in many ways and we do not want to become New York, California, Massachusetts, or Illinois. We need to keep Georgia the #1 place to do business, lower taxes, regulations, etc. My record has shown North Fulton & Cherokee to be the top areas of the state for job, raising a family, public safety, education, etc. As a member of the Senate leadership, I am able to best represent our district. I have a trust and rapport with all our local and state leaders which is critical to success. I am a statesman, not a politician.

  • Sarah Beeson: 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.

If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)?

  • Sarah Beeson: One of the key reasons I decided to run for this position was because of the incumbent's atrocious record of blocking and deleting constituents on social media -- a blatant violation of First Amendment rights granted by the U.S. Constitution. At one point, the ACLU of Georgia even issued a warning to the current state senator informing him of these violations. In addition, the incumbent only recently began hosting town hall meetings where he requires questions to be submitted in advance so that he may sidestep questions he dislikes. I believe our lawmakers are elected to represent their entire community, not just those inside their social circle. Public servants should be willing to have an open, honest dialogue with those they were elected to represent -- which sometimes calls for having difficult conversations. If our current state senator is not up to the task, I most certainly am.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform:

  • John Albers: In 2018, Fulton County raised property tax assessment from 20 - 300% literally taxing people out of their homes. I passed legislation to reset the values to lowest amount in the past 3 years and they can never increase more than 3%. I also add additional tax exemptions for Senior Citizens. I have been endorsed by all the North Fulton Mayors. Commissioners, School Boards Members, etc. for my leadership and teamwork.

  • Sarah Beeson: Education: Our children deserve fully-funded public schools — where teachers are paid fairly and all children have access to the resources they need to succeed. Although Georgia's pre-K program is lottery-funded, it shouldn't be a lottery to determine who can enroll. Every child in Georgia should be guaranteed the option for placement in the state's preschool and early education program. But access to education shouldn't stop at high school graduation: Georgia's students need options for post-secondary education, including access to debt-free higher education, technical colleges, or skilled apprenticeship programs to prepare them to enter the workforce.Criminal Justice: While our appreciation is unwavering for law enforcement officers placing 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, reviewing training and deescalation tactics, and implementing accountability measures to ensure fair sentencing for officer misconduct and prevention from rehiring 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.Gun Safety:More people have died or been injured in mass school shootings in the United States in the 21st century thus far than in the entire 20th century. I support addressing the issue of gun violence on our school campuses, background checks for gun owners, and keeping guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic abuse.

If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?

  • John Albers: Public Safety, Job Creation and Education! I will continue supporting Veterans and First Responders. I am proud we fully funded education year over year and provided the largest teacher pay raises in history. I will always be a champion of the Special Needs community. My work to support small business and economic development will continue as well as building roads and bridges for the future. I will make sure Georgia continues to thrive as the best place to do business for the past 7 years running. I will continue to be very responsive and provide phenomenal customer service to you.

  • Sarah Beeson: In 2021, our legislature will be using this year's U.S. Census data to re-draw our legislative districts. I believe that players should not be able to referee their own game and therefore politicians should not be able to draw their own district lines. If elected, I look forward to working across the aisle to instituting an independent, nonpartisan commission to create fair, representative districts.

Why should voters trust you?

  • John Albers: In 2011, 2013 and 2017, I was named Legislator of the Year by the fire service, in 2018 and 2020, I was recognized for outstanding service by law enforcement. In 2018, I was recognized by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) as well as a "Champion of Georgia's Cities" by GMA. In 2020, ACCG presented me the Legislative Services Award. During the pandemic, I worked and led efforts with our North Fulton cities, county, school board, federal counterparts etc. I have been endorsed by all the North Fulton Mayors, Commissioners, School Board Members focusing on teamwork. Experience matters!

  • Sarah Beeson: Unlike my opponent, I favor accountability, transparency, and an open dialogue with people across the political spectrum in North Fulton and east Cherokee County. Although I am running as a Democrat, I am committed to representing all constituents if elected.

What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?

  • John Albers: Georgia has a balance budget and no deficit. We are considered one of the most fiscally responsible states in America. I believe in lower taxes and capitalism. I am on the Appropriations Committee and have a detailed understanding of the state budget. I sponsored and passed zero based budgeting for Georgia and work to assure we maintain our 7 year record of being the #1 place to do business.

  • Sarah Beeson: I support transparency, accountability, and an open dialogue in all aspects of my campaign -- and the handling of taxpayer money is no different. I support closing taxpayer loopholes and reassessing large corporate tax credits to determine whether their impact is ultimately positive for all Georgians. Collectively, Georgians deserve the largest return possible on what we invest through our tax dollars.

Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?

  • John Albers: No

  • Sarah Beeson: No, I am committed to serving the full term of office.

The best advice ever shared with me was:

  • John Albers: Never settle with the status quo! Rock the boat and innovate when others rest, advocate when others are silent and remember the priorities of life – God, Family, Country and Work. Be exceptional at everything and never take “no” for an answer. Don’t back down from problems or challenges, be the solution.

  • Sarah Beeson: Truly listen. Instead of thinking about what to say next or how your response will be perceived, you owe it to the person who is taking the time and effort to impart their thoughts the courtesy of being mentally present.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

  • John Albers: I am a very active member of the community and public servant, my current and former affiliations include the Charitable boards: Hope & Light Foundation, Nobis Works, EnAble, End Human Trafficking, Roswell Fire & Police Foundation, North Metro Miracle League, Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation, World Chamber of Commerce, North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Drake House Advisory Board, Roswell UMC Board of Stewards, RUMC Job Networking, Chattahoochee Nature Center Chatt Pack and Chamberlain Nursing College. I serve as a volunteer firefighter for Alpharetta, US Air Force Civil Air Patrol, Sons of the American Legion, Scout Leader, youth sports coach, etc. I am a 4th generation firefighter and both my sons are 5th generation First Responders.
    I have a bold vision for Georgia and America built upon the foundation of freedom and opportunity. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are more than words, and it is my job to create, preserve and protect an environment for success.I believe in fiscal responsibility and lower taxes. I believe government is best when it is smallest and closest to the people. I believe in one nation under God. I believe in workfare over welfare, celebrating success while working harder and complaining less. I believe in faith, family, personal accountability and character.My plan begins with children and education. We need a dynamic workforce to meet the needs of a global economy supported by innovative schools and career paths. I will continue my focus to eliminate burdensome regulations and reduce taxes on families and businesses in order to encourage job growth. My greatest objective is to solve problems for those I serve.

This article originally appeared on the Roswell Patch