Poll: Momentum is building to fold flag

A Post and Courier poll shows the state Senate is within striking distance of having a majority in favor of removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. Support appears strong in the House, as well.

The Legislature's 61 Democrats adopted a unified front in support of taking the flag down. A number of Republicans signed on, as well, including Charleston Sen. Paul Thurmond, son of legendary Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.

Republican Sen. Katrina Shealy of Lexington said Tuesday she has come out in favor of removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds after praying on the matter. She joined fellow GOP representatives Chip Limehouse of Charleston and Robert Ridgeway of Manning in leaving the undecided camp and pledging their support for taking the flag down.

Still, 44 lawmakers continue to duck questions from The Post and Courier as to where they stand on the issue.

Results of the survey are recorded and displayed on our website in real time.

The issue has heated up following Wednesday's race-fueled killing of nine people, including a state senator, at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, allegedly by a white supremacist who cloaked himself in the Confederate flag.

Starting at about 9 a.m. Monday, a team of Post and Courier reporters reached out to all House and Senate members in an attempt to determine how much support existed for removing the flag.

By 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, 87 House members and 37 senators had weighed in on the issue, with a majority of those surveyed indicating their support for taking the flag down.

In the House, about 73 percent of those surveyed were in favor of the move, compared with 9 percent opposing it. The remainder were undecided or wouldn't state a position.

Twenty-nine senators supported the flag's removal, while eight others indicated they were undecided or wouldn't say how they felt. Two senators have indicated opposition to removing the flag.

The Post and Courier plans to continue calling, emailing and tweeting to those folks in attempt to pin down their positions on the matter.

Below are some of the comments The Post and Courier received:

“Remove it from the Statehouse grounds. (The killing of nine people in Charleston) was an evil act. My hope is that God will make something good from this. ... I hope that from this will come a profound healing and a symbolic legacy.”

— Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Conway

“I think it is too early to talk about, South Carolina is still grieving. I think the media needs to let us bury our dead. It is a serious discussion that we will need to have. A lot of people see the flag in different ways. A lot see it as heritage. A lot see it as racism and hate and hide behind it. I've had a lot of conversations about it and my heart is very heavy. I don't think you should make decisions when your heart is heavy. I understand why we should remove it — people use it as a symbol of hate and they should not have that symbol to hide behind.”

— Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington

“As part of the healing of this, I'm saying to supporters of the flag: Let's put it in the Confederate relic room. I'd love to see it happen. But I'm not holding my breath.”

— Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter. D-Orangeburg

“It's too close to what happened to consider anything. The thing that's disappointing is that this is being misinterpreted into other things. We should be talking about how well the state has held itself together, the opposite of what this man wanted has happened.”

— Rep. Michael “Mike” W. Gambrell, R-Abbeville

“As a (former) member of the House, I was never in support of that flag being (there). It was almost in your face. ... This is a proud day for South Carolina. South Carolina has run out of excuses for allowing the flag to continue to fly. ... People are saying enough is enough. We can't have people with a symbol of hate going into a church and killing Christians. We just cannot tolerate that behavior. ... The call has come to all lawmakers across the state, and they're saying, 'We want it down, and we want it down now.' ”

— Sen. John L. Scott Jr., D-Richland

Tony Bartelme, Robert Behre, Jennifer Berry Hawes, Melissa Boughton, Andrew Knapp, Diane Knich, Schuyler Kropf, Joel Millman, Doug Pardue, Jason Emory Parker, Bo Petersen, Allison Prang, Cynthia Roldan, David Slade, Warren Wise and Matt Sartwell contributed to this report.