ABC News’ Jan Simmonds reports: Republican vice presidential prospect Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., told reporters today that removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of South Carolina's Statehouse would not be a priority during his final years in office.
Noting that it would require "a tremendous amount of political capital to try and open a compromise," Sanford said that he would rather devote the final years of his administration to focus on "the things that will make the biggest difference in the most people's lives." The flag, which once flew atop the Capitol dome in South Carolina, was removed and relocated in 2000 to the Statehouse grounds near the Confederate Soldier Monument after a compromise was reached.
If Sanford were to be chosen by Sen. John McCain to be his running mate, the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag would likely become a national issue again within the presidential campaign.
Such a debate could also again raise questions again about McCain’s commitment to the concerns of African-Americans. That commitment at times has been doubted, since he voted against making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday in 1983. McCain today says he regrets that vote and has publicly apologized for doing so. In 1992, McCain did support a referendum creating a state holiday in the civil rights leader’s honor in Arizona.
Sanford's remarks today came in response to the announcement of Dennis Courtland Hayes, the interim president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, that his organization is planning a new campaign to have the flag removed completely from the Statehouse grounds.
After being made aware of Sanford’s comments, Hayes told The Associated Press: "I know they don't want to get into it, but we're going to get into it. That flag is not going to continue to fly in the face of our children."
Coincidentally, McCain will speak before the NAACP on Wednesday at the group's convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.