Confederacy of the Determined; Candidates Vying forVirginia Governor Face Pressure to Honor the State's Civil War History

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Byline: Christina Bellantoni, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Southern heritage buffs vow to use the Virginia gubernatorial election as a platform for designating April as Confederate History and Heritage Month.

The four candidates for governor have differing views on whether to pay official state homage to the Confederacy, an issue that has been debated for years in the commonwealth.

"We're not just a few people making a lot of noise," said Brag Bowling, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the oldest hereditary organization for male descendents of Confederate soldiers. "This is not a racial thing; it is good for Virginia. We're going to keep pushing this until we get it."

Each candidate recently shared his thoughts on what Mr. Bowling called a "litmus test for all politicians." Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine would not support a Confederate History and Heritage Month. Former state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore would support something that recognizes everyone who lived during the Civil War.

Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. and Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch would support a Confederate History and Heritage Month. Many past Virginia governors honored the Civil War or the Confederacy.

In 1990, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first black governor, a Democrat and a grandson of slaves, issued a proclamation praising both sides of the war and remembering "those who sacrificed in this great struggle."

Former Govs. George Allen and James S. Gilmore III, both Republicans, issued Confederate History Month proclamations. In 2000, Mr. Gilmore replaced that proclamation with one commemorating both sides of the Civil War - a move that enraged the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, has refused to issue a gubernatorial decree on either side of the Civil War.

Mr. Kaine, another Democrat, would decline to issue a Confederate History and Heritage Month proclamation if he is elected governor, said his campaign spokeswoman, Delacey Skinner.

"He would handle it the same way that Mark Warner has handled it," Miss Skinner said. "It is a very controversial issue, and the role of state government is to bring people closer together and unify the state, rather than to divide them.

"It's better to focus on those things we all have in common," she added.

Mr. Kilgore, a Republican, would support a Confederate History and Heritage Month as long as it "includes recognition of the sacrifice, status and the plight of all who lived during that period of Virginia's history," said his campaign spokesman, Tim Murtaugh.

Mr. Fitch, a Republican who will face Mr. Kilgore in the state's June 14 primary, strongly supports and has campaigned on reinstating Confederate History and Heritage Month. …