- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2004

RICHMOND — Politicians seeking statewide office in Virginia will be expected to honor the commonwealth’s Confederate history and leaders or pay the price at the polls, according to a leading Southern heritage group.

Citing a poll that indicates Virginians support protecting and honoring the state’s Confederate heritage, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) told The Washington Times yesterday that the group wants future candidates, including the expected nominees for next year’s gubernatorial race, to tell voters upfront whether they share those views.

The group recently suffered a setback when the Senate narrowly defeated a resolution that would have designated April as Confederate History and Heritage Month.

The spotlight is now trained on Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, and Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, who are expected to face off in the 2005 race for governor.

Mr. Kaine said yesterday the issue is not at the top of his list this year.

“There are more pressing matters for our state government to focus upon than a controversial proclamation,” Mr. Kaine said through his spokesman, Jeff Kraus. “We would be better served by celebrating Civil War history, or even better, Virginia history.”

Mr. Kilgore, however, would support designating April as Confederate History and Heritage Month, though he also thinks it should address more than just the Confederate history, according to his spokesman, Tim Murtaugh.

“Yes, he would support it,” Mr. Murtaugh said. “It’s premature to be specific about its contents, but he’d require it include a recognition of the sacrifice, status and the plight of all who lived during that period of Virginia’s history.”

Since he took office in 2002, Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, has refused to issue a gubernatorial decree on either side of the Civil War, and most Virginia lawmakers have tried to steer clear of the politically and emotionally charged issue.

There is overwhelming public support for officially recognizing Confederate history, according to a statewide poll financed by SCV and released exclusively to The Times yesterday.

The poll of 600 persons showed that 47.2 percent agreed Virginia should designate the month of April as Confederate History Month annually, while 41.5 percent disagreed. The poll has a margin of error of 4.1 percent.

Of those surveyed, 75.3 percent were white, 12.8 percent were black, and 9.5 percent were Hispanic, Asian or another race. Two percent of those surveyed refused to identify their race. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed moved to Virginia from other states, and 35 percent live in Northern Virginia.

Still, the issue is touchy in the state legislature.

Last week, the Senate narrowly defeated on a voice vote a resolution that would have designated April as Confederate History and Heritage Month. The majority of the senators did not want their votes recorded, so it’s not known which senators supported the resolution.

Some speculate the lawmakers were afraid to be on record on a topic that could possibly offend their black constituents.

Proponents of such a resolution contend it’s about education. Opponents, including the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, argue bestowing such honors would be condoning racism and slavery.

Brag Bowling, commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the group will continue its quest despite the recent defeat in the Senate. “This isn’t over,” he said.

Last month, the SCV paid $2,500 to have Conquest Research, a polling firm, survey registered voters.

The poll shows that 67 percent felt a Confederate history month would add to educational opportunities and the understanding of the state’s history, while 25 percent disagreed. Some 29 percent strongly agreed that designating April would mean more money for counties, cities and towns.

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