Controversy over the Confederate flag has turned into the first skirmish of the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, with the candidates ensnarled in a debate over whether to support a tourism boycott initiated three years ago by the state chapter of the NAACP.

The group wants the boycott to continue until the flag is removed from the state capitol grounds. The boycott asks people to avoid staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and visiting the state for meetings, reunions or other gatherings.

Al Sharpton, the African American minister from New York, has said he supports the boycott, but most of the other candidates say that, while they support removing the flag from the statehouse grounds, abiding by the boycott's terms will prevent them from running aggressive campaigns in the state.

Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) has drawn the most fire for what critics said was his attempt to back away from a January pledge to honor the boycott. Edwards said last month he would not stay in hotels while campaigning in the state, but his campaign spokeswoman said he always said he would run a full campaign in the state. His critics say that's inconsistent.

James Gallman, president of the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP, said Edwards is getting an unfair rap. "I don't see it as backpedaling," he said, adding that the NAACP had long-established guidelines that would apply to presidential candidates, allowing essential economic activity.

"Mr. Edwards wants to be successful, and in my opinion has conducted himself in a way of showing support while being able to use the guidelines in assisting him to be successful," Gallman said.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the state's only African American House member, opposes the boycott. "I do not support an economic boycott for the state of South Carolina and I've advised all the presidential candidates to whom I've spoken not to support or even voice any support for a boycott," he said.

Heinz -- Two Varieties

Teresa Heinz is now Teresa Heinz Kerry. At least when she's helping her husband campaign for president.

The aspiring first lady, wife of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune, announced that, after seven years of marriage, she is adding her husband's name to her own.

"As the senator is campaigning outside of Massachusetts and introducing himself to the rest of the country, it was thought that people found it confusing that his wife has a different name," said her spokeswoman, Chris Black. "They don't know whether to call her Mrs. Kerry or Mrs. Heinz."

But Heinz Kerry -- no hyphen -- won't change her name legally. In fact, she will continue to use "Heinz" in her professional life, where she has become a well-known philanthropist. She feels too strongly about that career, along with her connections to the Heinz family and the fact that she has been Teresa Heinz for so long, to abandon the name, Black said.

Before she married the Massachusetts senator in 1995, she was the wife of U.S. Sen. H. John Heinz III (R-Pa.). He died in a 1991 airplane-helicopter crash.

The name change has echoes from Arkansas, more than two decades ago. In the first several years of her marriage to Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham kept her maiden name. But after her husband lost his bid for a second term as Arkansas governor, she and others began to wonder if it hadn't become a political liability. Some thought it too East Coast, too liberal, too feminist for Arkansas voters. In 1982, during her husband's successful bid to regain the governorship, she began using his last name.

By adding Kerry to her name, Teresa Heinz might quiet some of the chatter among political insiders, who have noted that she sometimes refers to the late senator Heinz as "my husband," as she did in a recent Washington Post profile.

"She doesn't do that very often," Black said. "She's very invested in this marriage and her husband, and wants to do everything she can to help him in his campaign."

Staff researcher Brian Faler contributed

to this report.