Politics

Eight South Carolina Lawmakers Explain Why They Are Opposed To Removing The Confederate Flag

CREDIT: SCStateHouse.Gov

The racially motivated shooting that killed nine in Charleston last week has sparked a national debate about the presence of the Confederate flag, which symbolizes racism and hatred to many, at the Capitol grounds. On Monday, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the flag. She said it was time for the flag to be taken down and put in a museum, and that South Carolinians were welcome to display it on their private property.

Only a simple majority vote is needed to remove the flag, contrary to what many media outlets have reported. On Tuesday, Charleston newspaper The Post & Courier asked lawmakers what they think about the Confederate flag. Many said they would vote to remove it and some wouldn’t answer or were undecided, but eight House representatives said they were sure they would vote no. Here’s a closer look at those eight.

Rep. Mike Burns (R-Greenville)
Burns, a South Carolina native, said the flag shouldn’t be taken down because people view it as a way to honor their heritage and their ancestors who fought in the Civil War.

Rep. Bill Chumley (R-Greenville, Spartanburg)
A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Chumley said the issue of the flag didn’t need to be discussed further, as it was decided in a 2000 compromise to move the flag from the Statehouse dome to the Capitol grounds. “This needs to go no further,” he told the Post. “It has been settled already. A compromise is a compromise.”

Christopher Corley (R-Aiken)
The 35-year-old former attorney made his opinion on the flag clear. “I’m for leaving it where it is — absolutely,” he said. “If I have to put 500 amendments on this thing to keep it there, then I will do it. This is a non-issue that’s being made an issue by certain groups trying to take advantage of a terrible situation.”

Craig A. Gagnon (R-Abbeville, Anderson)
Gagnon, a Massachusetts-born former chiropractor, told the Post he sees no reason to take the flag down. “I don’t think the flag at the monument at the Statehouse was a part of the reason for doing these heinous murders,” he said.

Mike Gambrell (R-Abbeville, Anderson)
This former fire department chief, along with other representatives from his county, said it was not an appropriate time to debate the issue of the flag. They told the Anderson Independent Mail that discussions about the Confederate flag should wait until after funerals for the nine victims are held.

“There is a time and place for that decision,” he said. “I don’t think it is right now.” Gambrell is the chairman of the county’s legislative delegation.

Jonathon D. Hill (R-Anderson)
Hill told the Independent Mail he will oppose any effort to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds and added that he was “pretty disappointed” with the governor’s “misguided attempt to combat racism.”

“You defeat it with love,” Hill said. “You don’t defeat it with politics.”

Michael A. Pitts (R-Greenwood, Laurens)
When asked about the Confederate flag on the day after shooting, Pitts said, “I think it’ll bring up talk about possibly moving it because that talk is just below the surface forever. But I don’t see that this incident has any bearing on the flag or the flag has any bearing on the incident. This kid had drug issues and mental issues and I think that’s the root of the problem. Racism exists no matter whether you try to use the flag as a symbol for that or not.”

Mike Ryhal (R-Horry)
Former businessman Ryhal has spoken a few times about his belief that the flag is “no problem.” “I don’t think it should be removed,” he told the Post. “It is a part of the South Carolina history. It is on the grounds. I think it’s fine where it’s at.” He also said removing the flag “wouldn’t change the way people feel about race.”

“We have numerous monuments all over the Statehouse grounds reflecting the history of South Carolina and I see that flag as a piece of our history,” he said to the Myrtle Beach Sun-News.
“The fact is it’s part of the history of the South. There’s no problem with having it out there.”

Rupali Srivastava is an intern with ThinkProgress.