Angry SCV leaders declared that Mr. Gilmore “turned his back on people of Southern heritage” and paid $7,000 for a full-page ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch paying tribute to Confederate soldiers who “spilled their blood defending the sacred soil of Virginia.”
Mark Earley, Virginia’s attorney general in 2001 as well as the Republican gubernatorial candidate, went to federal court in a failed attempt to prevent the state from issuing specialty license plates for SCV members. Mr. Earley subsequently was defeated by Democrat Mark Warner.
“One of the major reasons Earley lost that election was his opposition to Confederate History Month,” Mr. Bowling says. “He lost that election, in my opinion, in Southside Virginia. A Republican candidate cannot win statewide election in Virginia unless he wins in Southside” — where, Mr. Bowling says, support for Confederate heritage is strongest.
Gil Davis doesn’t underestimate the political impact of the Confederate past.
“We all have a heritage that ought to be celebrated,” Mr. Davis tells Virginia SCV members at their April 25 banquet.
A lawyer who is a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 2005, Mr. Davis traveled some 180 miles from his Fairfax home for the convention in South Hill, near the North Carolina border.
“There is no other region of the country with more patriotism and love for country than the South,” Mr. Davis says at the banquet.
When he declares that he will support a Confederate Heritage Month proclamation for Virginia, the room erupts in the high-pitched whoop of the Rebel yell.
While Mr. Davis and other Republicans — including Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, a gubernatorial candidate — have expressed support for honoring Virginia’s Confederate history, SCV’s Mr. Bowling says the current Democratic governor “has done some good things for Confederate heritage.”
In January, Mr. Warner issued a proclamation honoring the birthdays of Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Mr. Bowling notes. Mr. Warner also issued a proclamation in March honoring the crew of the CSS Hunley, coinciding with SCV’s memorial service for a Hunley crewman from Virginia who perished in 1864 when the Confederate submarine sank after its attack on a Union ship in Charleston harbor.
“About as much as you could expect from a Democrat,” Mr. Bowling says.
‘A fair vote’
Confederate heritage is a bipartisan issue in Georgia, says William Lathem, spokesman for the Atlanta-based Southern Heritage Political Action Committee.
“We’ll work against politicians on both sides of the aisle that have voted against Southern heritage and against allowing the people a fair vote on the flag,” Mr. Lathem says.