Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) approves of the debate happening over the Buckhead City proposal that is dominating local conversations in his state, he said during an interview on Breitbart News Saturday.
Kemp, who is facing a tough primary battle as he seeks a second term in office this year, has chosen not to take sides on the city proposal, which is currently tabled in the state Senate.
“You’ll be glad to know, we passed a bill last year that doesn’t allow rogue local governments to defund the police, and that’s one of the reasons it’s good this debate’s going on and why I haven’t interfered one way or another, is the mayor needs to feel the pressure on this issue,” Kemp said. “You know, I’ve spoken to him directly and told him people are fed up. You’ve got to do some police work.”
The Buckhead City proposal was introduced in the legislature this session as a response to surging crime in Atlanta coupled with Democrats’ defund-the-police sentiments. If passed, the proposal would allow residents of the affluent neighborhood to vote on if they want Buckhead to deannex from Atlanta and become its own city with its own police force.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens (D), who took office in January and succeeded former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), is opposed to the Buckhead separation movement. The grassroots effort, which has been on and off for years, took on new life in 2020 and 2021 amid gripes with Bottoms’ inability to manage skyrocketing violent crime in her city.
Dickens, in an attempt to find alternative answers for supporters of Buckhead City deannexation — which would ultimately cripple Atlanta’s economy — has shown signs of becoming more receptive to Atlanta’s policing needs. Dickens’ stance represents a noticeable shift after the Georgia Democrat, a former councilman, voted in favor of quite literally defunding the Atlanta Police Department in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.
Kemp said of Atlanta’s leadership, “You need to change the policies that the last mayor had that weren’t working,” adding that as governor he has responded to crime by budgeting state funds for the Georgia Board of Investigations (GBI) and attorney general to target gangs that he believes are at the root of much of the violent crime.
“If you look at the Buckhead area and look at the crime figures, they’re actually as good as anywhere in the city right now because the State Patrol, under my leadership, and the crime suppression unit, has been doing this work,” Kemp said. “We’ve got money in the budget this year for the GBI and the Attorney General’s Office to have further resources to go after street gangs. They’re involved in a lot of this. And so, you know, while everybody else is talking in debate and saying they’ll do this that and the other, what you have in myself, as the governor — and the people of Buckhead know this — is actually doing something about crime.”
Kemp, who is facing former Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in the May 24 primary race for governor, is polling about ten points ahead of Perdue, according to a recent Trafalgar Group poll. Kemp’s current strong position could move, however, depending on the direction the Buckhead bill takes. A stunning majority of respondents in that same poll — 75.1 percent — said they would support a ballot measure for the people of Buckhead to vote on cityhood.
Bill White, who is leading the Buckhead City movement, along with state lawmakers in August 2021. (courtesy Bill White)
The governor explained that while he has been leading his own state efforts to combat crime, including by allocating new state emergency funds to fight crime and creating the crime suppression unit last May, local leaders have so far not delivered on the issue. “Let’s talk about the reason that poll, the numbers are like that in that poll and what the underlying issue is, and that is violent crime,” Kemp said.
The governor continued, “People are fed up with getting carjacked when their kids or their wife is pumping gas, home invasions, people getting shot when they’re walking down the sidewalk, people getting harassed when they’re going to the mall up in Buckhead, and, look, this isn’t happening just in Buckhead. It’s happening all over the city of Atlanta, and if you go all the way back to the summer when you had civil unrest and Antifa, a lot of other crazy people, coming to Georgia trying to burn our city down. You know, the local politicians wouldn’t stand up and turn the police loose on them, and so the state had to do that. I turned the state police department of community supervision, GBI, and other things, National Guard, to keep our city from getting burned down, and ever since then, we’ve been going after violent crime. I created a crime suppression unit. … [The Buckhead City ballot referendum] is something obviously the policy makers would have to approve. But in the meantime, we’ve been actually doing real police work, boots on the ground for nine months.”