Georgia Flag Issue Heating Up Again - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

01/08/04

Georgia Flag Issue Heating Up Again

Gov. Sonny Perdue was in Savannah this afternoon, talking to voters before the general assembly session starts next week. But one of the biggest issues is one the governor isn't addressing. The state flag could be one of the hot topics again, just like it's been for the past three years.

But Gov. Perdue is downplaying the controversy. "I think for the majority of people the March referendum will put the issue behind them," he said.

Voters will go to the polls in March to choose their preference between two flags in a nonbinding vote. But some people still want a third option on the ballot, they want the flag adopted in 1956 with the Confederate battle flag incorporated into it.

The politicians who work in the capitol say this isn't a big issue, but many people that elect them say yes. Jeff Mullis is still angry nine months later. He supported Sonny Perdue because he wanted him to repeal the 2001 Barnes flag. "We thought we were supporting a man of his word who would give us a chance to vote on bringing back the '56 flag," he said.

What he and others got instead was a compromise vote. Perdue signed off on a revised version of a previous one, and a referendum between the new flag and the blue flag.

"We were totally shocked," said Mullis. He and other members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other enthusiasts want the '56 flag on the ballot.

That's a fact not lost on the governor who has only two years left before he faces reelection. "For some citizens, this is a primary issue, and to them the issue will never be settled until they get their choice," he said. 

Some now protest Gov. Perdue like they did Roy Barnes. On websites supporting the '56 flag, some predict an alternative bill will be introduced to drop the March vote, replace it with one in the summer and add the '56 flag to the ballot. Lawmakers downplay any possible impact of so-called flaggers. "It won't come out of committee, because even those who want to consider it want the wait until March 2," said Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah).

Mullis and other flag supporters say they made the difference for Perdue in the last election, and they could do it again. According to flag backers, the proposal to change the vote will come January 20, so we'll keep that date circled to see if it happens. Remember this time two years ago when flaggers said they'd vote Barnes out of office and they settled on Perdue as their candidate. No one thought it could happen, but it did.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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