The Jolt: Buckhead lawmakers oppose leaving Atlanta

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta. Bob Andres,

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta. Bob Andres,

On the day the Buckhead City Committee released a feasibility study to crunch the numbers on whether an independent Buckhead City could pay its own bills, Buckhead’s own elected leaders told the AJC they’re still opposed to the effort to break the neighborhood away from the City of Atlanta.

The report from Valdosta State University estimated that the mostly upscale area could easily cover the basics of municipal services, including 250 police officers. But the study was not required to address start-up costs, residents’ tax rates, or the cost of public schools. Under current law, Buckhead children would not be eligible to attend Atlanta Public Schools.

State Rep. Betsy Holland, a Democrat, said she’s not surprised that a study showed Atlanta’s richest neighborhood can raise enough tax dollars to sustain itself.

“The study does nothing to address my concerns that if Buckhead secedes from Atlanta it will effectively defund critical city services, including law enforcement,” she said. “That kind of instability for Atlanta will have a devastating domino effect throughout the state.”

State Sen. Jen Jordan, a Democrat who is running for state Attorney General, has spoken out against cityhood before. On Monday, she had specific concerns about the legality of the effort and the potential consequences for the state’s finances.

“Deannexing from the City of Atlanta would immediately be challenged on constitutional grounds- impairment of contracts- and would have a significant impact on the state’s bond rating and financial health.”

The two women are plugged-in and popular in their own districts. Holland was reelected in 2020 with 58% of the vote. Jordan won with 61%.

Which makes it even more noteworthy that state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, a candidate for U.S. Senate, dove headfirst into the issue Monday afternoon.

The Republican held a press conference outside of Peachtree Battle Shopping Center, where an attempted car theft Friday afternoon left one suspect dead and another wounded, facing murder charges.

Black proudly proclaimed his support for a referendum on the 2022 ballot for Buckhead voters to decide for themselves whether to carve a city of Buckhead out of Atlanta. He said was forced to wade into local waters because of the region’s rising crime rates.

“I’m going to be relentless on this issue. We must have a safer society,” he said. “It’s going to demand that all leaders join together to protect our citizens.”

Black would not have a role in the local issue as either Agriculture Commissioner, nor as a U.S. Senator. But Holland and Jordan would play keys roles.

The Democrats would not only be potential votes against the effort in the General Assembly. As elected representatives for the area, their support would usually be required for the detailed negotiations that go into cityhood efforts at the Capitol.

How exactly this cityhood effort, sponsored by Republican lawmakers outside of Buckhead, would play out remains to be seen.


12/12/2018 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- Georgia Governor-Elect Brian Kemp (from left), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Norfolk Southern CEO Jim Squires, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development Pat Wilson (right) stand for a photo following a press conference in the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Wednesday, December 12, 2018. During the presser, Fortune 500 company Norfolk Southern officially announced that they will be moving their headquarters to Atlanta. They will be building in Atlanta's Midtown community. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer

It’s no mystery to our loyal readers that Republicans have tried to fire up their base with promises to crack down on Atlanta crime -- and fiery broadsides at Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and other Democrats.

Now, we have some more hard evidence to reinforce why Senate candidate Gary Black and other Republicans are taking such steps.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released Tuesday found that most likely Atlanta voters oppose the movement to carve out a new city of Buckhead, including 44% who say they’re strongly opposed.

But more than half of Atlanta’s Republican voters -- 56% -- say they like the idea of a breakaway Buckhead. And one-third say that crime is a motivating factor for the cityhood idea.

Similarly, a plurality of Atlanta voters (44%) say crime is the biggest issue in the mayor’s race. That includes most Republicans and about half of the city’s white voters.

And nearly three-quarters of Atlanta voters say the city is on the “wrong track” in dealing with crime. That includes nearly three-quarters of white voters and two-thirds of Black voters, along with almost all (93%) of Republican voters.


We asked Gov. Brian Kemp at an event last night for his stance on Buckhead cityhood. Although his legislative allies — including a Senate floor leader — have backed the push, the governor has yet to weigh in.

“I’m still keeping my options open. I haven’t seen the report yet but there’s a reason that that movement is continuing to move forward,” said Kemp. “It’s because people are sick of violent crime in Atlanta and no one is doing anything about it.”


Believe it or not, there are less than two months before Election Day in the the race for Atlanta mayor.

In “The Race for City Hall” this week, the AJC’s City Hall team digs into the tax returns for mayoral candidate and city councilman Andre Dickens. Dickens wants his competitors to show their returns, too.

There are also highlights from two recent mayor polls, which show a runoff likely to follow the November showdown. Finally, there’s a look ahead at this week’s candidate forums.

Be sure to check every Monday morning for more of “The Race for City Hall.”


We’re picking up pushback over Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to tap longtime aide Candice Broce to lead the Department of Human Services.

Broce, who has served as Kemp’s spokeswoman and one of his top attorneys, has feuded with Democrats and fellow Republicans over the years in service of her boss.

One sent over this clip from one of your Insiders with a reminder of her scathing criticism of House Speaker David Ralston in the pre-pandemic era, when the two sparred over tax cuts and teacher pay hikes.

At the time, we quoted her slamming Ralston for forging an alliance with Democrats to try to force then-U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Kemp appointee, into a primary against then-U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

“While we respect the Legislature’s purview, the governor does not need a lesson in conservatism from a man who brokered a deal with Democrats just last week for political gamesmanship. Governor Kemp will continue to put hardworking Georgians first and prioritize people over toxic politics.”

As for Broce, she tweeted that she’s “honored & excited” for her new role.

“Focused on edifying the amazing people at @GADHS & @GADFCS by delivering what they need to succeed — administrative support, smart hiring & new technology,” she wrote. “They’re the experts in their fields. My job is eliminating unnecessary burdens so they’re empowered.”


SAVANNAH, GA - Sept. 2, 2020: There are many exceptions to the mayorÕs mask mandate, including people do not have to wear a mask while eating or drinking or social distancing from others. Sitting on a park bench alone drinking a glass of wine on Ellis Square in historic is not a violation of the mandate.  (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

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Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Will a federal COVID vaccine mandate be enough to get millions of holdout Americans inoculated against the contagious deadly virus?

The leaders of Savannah are going one step further, offering $500 vaccine incentives to employees of the City of Savannah, Chatham County, and county school and transit workers.

According to the Savannah Morning News, new city manager Jay Melder said the current 55% vaccination rate among employees is too low.

“(Vaccinating) is the best way that an organization can protect itself against any type of production loss or inefficiency as a consequence of needing to quarantine or losing people to sick leave as they deal with the virus.”


Christian Walker is a pundit with a vast following on social media and a podcast called “Uncancellable.” He also has a history of inflammatory comments that could complicate the U.S. Senate campaign of his father, Herschel Walker.

The younger Walker has described Black Lives Matters activists as terrorists and frequently criticizes Black victims of police violence. More recently, he’s called supporters of embattled California Gov. Gavin Newsom “white supremacists.”

In opposing the Pentagon policy allowing women in combat roles, he said, “Maybe not everyone wants to do the jobs of men. Let men be men and women have fun.”

For a time, the elder Walker would routinely retweet his son. Now that he’s in the race, questions have swirled about what role his son will play in his campaign.

In a rare media interview, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo asked the Senate Republican contender whether his son would be a part of his campaign. Here’s what he said:

He’s always going to be campaigning for me, because you know Christian, I love him to death, you know he has his way of saying things and sometimes we may disagree the way he says it, but I believe in everything that he’s said, and he just says it a little more tougher than I do.


One of the nation’s most prominent abortion rights groups formally endorsed U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock on Tuesday.

NARAL Pro-Choice America said the group, which includes 54,000 members in Georgia, is backing the Democratic incumbent because “he has consistently stood up for reproductive freedom and taken bold action.”

“We are confident that he will continue to fight to make sure that every body in Georgia, and across the country, has the freedom to make their own decisions about their health, lives, families and futures,” said Adrienne Kimmell, the group’s acting president.

Warnock has proclaimed himself a “pro-choice pastor” and has aggressively opposed limits on abortion, including the Georgia’s 2019 “heartbeat” law, which bans abortion after six weeks. That law is scheduled for an appellate court review later this month.

“As a proud pro-choice pastor, I fundamentally believe that health care is a human right and that decisions about pregnancy should be made between a patient and their provider,” said Warnock.


More folks with Georgia ties are being appointed to positions in President Joe Biden’s administration.

Reta Jo Lewis is Biden’s pick to serve as president and chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Lewis, 67, is a Statesboro native who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law.

Kristin Johnson, a current professor at Emory’s law school, was nominated to service on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.


Paul Walton, the mayor of the town of Hull, has announced he will run as a Democrat in Georgia’s 9th congressional district. That is the seat currently held by freshman Republican Andrew Clyde, who plans to seek re-election.

Walton is the first Black person to serve as mayor in the Madison County town, and he was also the first Black elected to that city’s council. The northeast Georgia district is expected to remain a GOP stronghold, even after redistricting, making Walton’s bid to unseat Clyde a long-shot.


Today, California voters are deciding whether to support a Republican-led effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom and elect someone new to the post.

Stacey Abrams was among those who lent 11th-hour support; hers came in the form of a Twitter endorsement.

Calling him, “my friend Gavin Newsom,” she wrote Monday, “Vote no and return your ballot by tomorrow, 9/14 at 8PM. Vaccines, climate change, immigrant rights, minimum wage, reproductive rights, gun safety and more are on the ballot.”


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