EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — South Jersey never fell under the Mason-Dixon line. But one South Jersey politician who likes to sport a Confederate flag patch says his part of the Garden State might as well have.

An Atlantic County freeholder who earlier this year apologized for sexist Facebook posts is once again getting attention online after photos emerged of a Confederate flag on his clothes.

Freeholder John Carman, who is up for re-election in November, can be seen in pictures on his Facebook page wearing a patch where the top half of the state is an American flag while the bottom is a Confederate flag. The pictures were circulated by the Atlantic County Democrats.

"The Confederate flag is a symbol of hate and bigotry, pure and simple," Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman said. "For many of our friends in the African-American community, the sight of it puts knots in their stomachs."

Carman told New Jersey 101.5 on Wednesday that he had worn the patch "for quite a while," including times with the American Legion Riders who provide escorts for military funerals. He now plans to remove it, however.

"We call it the South Jersey Rebel patch," he said. "This was not created with any racial overtones whatsoever. It was to lampoon the political divide between north and south Jersey."

As for what he sees as the difference between the northern half of the state and the southern part where he lives, Carman called it "mostly a cultural divide."

"Obviously, they (North Jersey) have more population, and in doing so they have more representatives to the state," he said. "They tend to vote to keep all their money up there."

Carman said he believes people in South Jersey feel like "orphans" because of the divide.

"We just seem to be left out of a lot of things," he said. "The only thing North Jersey seems to want out of us is our money, especially when the Atlantic City casinos were doing well."

With racial tensions running high across the country in recent months, Carman said he probably should have removed the patch sooner, but plans to take it off now.

He said with it being election season, he was not surprised the county Democrats are making an issue of the patch, much like they did with the Facebook posts earlier this year.

"My opponents don't have a very strong platform to run on and they're going to pick apart everything they can," he said.

Running for another term in office, Carman said he hopes to help improve the lives of people in Atlantic County and help close the gap between the two halves of the state.

"Basically I'm running on rebuilding our economy and jobs," he said. "We've been in bad shape for a while now. I think we've hit the bottom."

Carman is not the first New Jersey politician to be photographed with the flag. Assemblyman Parker Space, R-Sussex, last month shared a picture of him posing with a Confederate flag that had the face of country music star Hank Williams Jr.

After Democrats made hay of the photo, Space responded by saying that he represents "a forgotten group of people in America: the working class."

"The working people that I am a part of helped to make America Great," Space said. "We have our own ways, our own music, our own sense of humor."

Space insisted at the time that he did not intend to offend anyone with the picture.

Carman said he has learned over the past nine months the importance of being careful on social media.

"You have to watch everything you do," he said. "A lot of things are taken out of context, whether it be humor, whether it be just drawing the wrong meanings from things like in the case of this. You have to be careful."

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