Randolph links racism, candidate

COLUMBIA — The president of the state NAACP warned voters to pay attention when he tied racism in the 1800s with a "consistency in the mindset" of individuals who support flying the Confederate battle flag.

On Wednesday, Lonnie Randolph, president of the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, took specific aim at presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani.

"(Giuliani) says it's a state issue," Randolph said. "We all know what the states rights' policy and philosophy is, and it's just amazing to me that on such a critical issue of respect and fairness that he doesn't know what terrorism is."

Randolph's comments came during an announcement of plans for the NAACP's annual King Day at the Dome March and Rally, which will be attended by Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton also are expected to attend the Jan. 21 event.

Giuliani, whose campaign did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages, told The Associated Press in April: "The state made a decision about the flag and another state may make a different decision about the flag."

In 2000, the state Legislature agreed to move the Confederate battle flag from atop the Statehouse dome to a flagpole on the Confederate Soldier's Monument in front of the capitol building.

Sens. Clinton and Obama have called for the flag to be removed from the Statehouse grounds.

Clemson University political scientist David Woodard said it is interesting that Randolph singled out Giuliani, a Republican who has been able to appeal to moderate and independent Democrats.

"Any more bad news is really bad news for Giuliani," Woodard said.

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Giuliani sank from first to fifth in Clemson University's latest Palmetto Poll, a survey of 900 registered state voters released in late November.

Woodard said he doesn't anticipate Randolph's comments will influence GOP voters, but it could be harmful for Giuliani's cross-over appeal in the Democratic Party.

To many, the flag is a symbol of South Carolina's history that belongs to their ancestors who fought and died. To Randolph and others, the flag embodies injustices the NAACP exists to correct, including a perceived disparity in education between blacks and whites.

Randolph said legislators and others who support flying the flag share a consistency in thinking with the Confederate soldiers.

"Let me remind you, the Confederates didn't allow people of color to get an education either," he said.

Randolph noted that all 170 members of the Legislature are up for re-election in November.