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Southern Heritage group slams Ed Narain

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A Southern heritage group is giving Ed Narain an F-minus grade as he campaigns to advance to Florida’s Senate District 19 race, but he’s not complaining about it.

Among the pieces of legislation the Tampa House Democratic District 61 representative has boasted about on the campaign trail is his bill to remove and replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith from the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

Smith was a St. Augustine native who served as a Confederate army general during the Civil War. The law called on the Florida Arts Council and the Department of State to estimate the costs of replacing the statue, including the costs associated with designing and creating a new statue, removing the current statue, and any unveiling ceremony.

While some Republicans in the Legislature didn’t support it, the bill still passed in the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

One group not pleased with that bill was the group Save Southern Heritage, who is giving Narain that F-minus rating. They also claim a candidate survey he filled out recently shows he also would like to dig up the graves of American veterans who served for the South if they are buried in public parks or cemeteries.

When contacted, Narain says he began filling out the survey, but never completed it, because he felt it was irrelevant to his candidacy or what he believes in. Save Southern Heritage forwarded a copy of the survey to FloridaPolitics.com, but the time stamp shows he worked on it for just three minutes, and did not fill out the last few questions on it.

“The reality of it is, I was the prime sponsor of the bill to remove General Kirby Smith,” he said Thursday. “I’ve been an outspoken critic of having the Confederate flag flown on government buildings, so I’m not surprised that this group would come out against my candidacy.”

“His voting record is not so great,” responded David McCallister, a spokesman for Save Southern Heritage. “He definitely voted for removing General Kirby Smith’s statue from Washington, D.C. That’s kind of a black mark right there.”

MCallister went on to say Narain appears to following the NAACP’s “party line of bigotry and hatred,” which he says goes back to a 1991 resolution in which the venerable civil rights organization declared the Confederate battle flag to be “an abhorrence to all Americans and decent people of this country, and indeed, the world and is an odious blight upon the universe.”

“They’ve had 25 years of propaganda against Southern symbols, and they’re now just ratcheting things up right now, taking the opportunity to pile on after Charleston, while not letting a crisis go to waste, and being hysterical about it,” said McCallister, referring to the June 2015 shooting massacre of nine people in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The perpetrator, Dylann Roof, embraced the flag as a symbol of his racist ideology.

McAllister is the commander of the Judah P. Benjamin Camp, the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and has been a champion of hanging the Confederate battle flag at the interchange of Interstate 75 and Interstate 4 in Tampa, a highly controversial display since it was initially erected in 2008. He said he was disappointed to hear Narain had decided not to complete the survey.

“Whenever African-Americans see that flag, it creates a visceral reaction within many people,” said Narain. “They can spin this to say this is about Southern heritage all they want, but the Confederate battle flag has nothing to do with true Southern heritage, and everything to do with hate,” adding that he has received hate mail on his Facebook page for his sponsorship of the bill removing General Kirby’s statue.

Narain is running for the Senate District 19 race on Tuesday against fellow Democrats Augie Ribeiro, Darryl Rouson, and Betty Reed. The winner will be the heavy favorite to take the seat in the majority-Democratic district in November.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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