In the May 22 primary election, Democrats and Buckhead residents Dan Berschinski, Bob Gibeling and Betsy Holland are battling for the District 54 Georgia House of Representatives seat held by Republican Beth Beskin, who is unopposed in the primary. The winner will face Beskin in November, and the district includes part of Buckhead.
Gibeling has run against Beskin twice (in 2016 and 2014), and Beskin won both times with about 60 percent of the vote. Berschinski and Holland are running for office for the first time.
Berschinski, an Army veteran who now owns his own business, said he is running because he feels the General Assembly is not doing enough for Georgians.
“My time in the military taught me that I enjoy working hard and taking care of others,” he said. “I do not believe that the current majority in our Legislature is focused on taking care of the people of Georgia. This past session our state leaders proposed legislation that would have legalized discrimination against same-sex couples and they attacked Delta, our state’s largest private employer, because of Delta’s lack of support for the NRA. It’s time that we get serious and tackle the big issues – good schools, safe neighborhoods and a strong economy.”
Berschinski’s volunteer/civic experience includes serving on the board of the Amputee Coalition of America, the nation’s largest amputee-focused nonprofit, for six years, including two as board chair, and volunteering on the membership committee of the North Buckhead Civic Association.
“I was born and raised in Georgia,” the Peachtree City native said. “I attended college at West Point and served as an Army officer until I was wounded and lost both legs in Afghanistan in 2009. I persevered through four years of physical therapy in order to become the military’s first patient with my injuries to walk on a daily basis. I will bring the same drive and commitment to politics that I had during my time in the Army and in recovery.”
Gibeling is a retired businessman who worked in the marketing field and for nonprofits for a combined 40 years. For more than 50 years the former Republican has volunteered for both Republican and Democratic political campaigns, and for more than 20 years Gibeling has advocated for issues in the Georgia Legislature and U.S. Congress. He’s a member of and former vice president of the Buckhead Business Association, was recently appointed to the Fulton County HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Policy Committee and is on the call committee of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.
“I am uniquely qualified because of (a) business background combined with first-hand knowledge of programs always involved in state legislation, adoption, foster care and refugee resettlement, from working for Lutheran Services of Georgia,” Gibeling said.
Gibeling said he’s running again to “move Georgia forward to the future.”
“I think the Legislature is really scared to death of our increasingly diverse multiracial fate,” he said. “They keep passing laws that show they’re scared of the future. I want people to know I will be a representative to embrace the future with confidence and not fear. I think the people of Buckhead feel that way. They want the Legislature to feature that positive orientation.”
Holland, an executive with Turner, said she is running for the seat to put the state’s residents first.
“I’ve been frustrated for far too long by a General Assembly that seems to put ideology above the best interests of Georgians,” she said. “When a neighbor approached me about running, I saw an opportunity to take my years of business and community experience and apply it to shaping programs and policies that impact my fellow Georgians. The state needs more leaders who understand both business and community needs, who will work across the aisle to find solutions to our state’s most pressing problems and who has a track record of building consensus and getting things done. I believe I am that leader.”
Holland has more than 20 years of experience as a volunteer, serving on the boards of Communities in Schools, the Atlanta Community ToolBank, ToolBank USA, Fugees Family and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, chairing two of those boards and a chamber committee. She also is involved with Garden Hills Elementary School and Morningside Presbyterian Church.
“Georgia House District 54 has a large contingent of smart, engaged, moderate voters,” Holland said. “Many of them want someone who takes the time to study and understand today’s complex policy issues and who will work to solve them in a thoughtful way. In addition, most voters want a legislator who will reach across the aisle and collaborate to get things done. I am definitely that candidate. Of the primary candidates, I am the most experienced and qualified. In addition to my full-time job at Turner, I’ve worked with the Georgia Chamber on policy issues at the Georgia Legislature over the past 10 years.”
According to the State Ethics Commission, through March 31, Berschinski had $23,725.00 in contributions, $3,978.05 in expenditures and $19,746.95 in net cash on hand; Gibeling had $22,356.27, $404.36 and $21,951.91 and Holland had $22,355.00, $9,436.02 and $12,918.98.