U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, attempted to turn up the heat Tuesday on Gov. Rick Perry by condemning a controversial proposal to offer Texas license plates with the image of the Confederate flag.
Jackson Lee directly addressed Perry directly on the House floor ahead of his scheduled participation in Tuesday's night's Republican presidential primary debate in New Hampshire.
“I beg you, Mr. Perry, tonight, to speak to your higher angels and talk about bringing us together,” Jackson Lee said. “Do not issue a Confederate license plate in the state of Texas, for God’s sake, and God bless America.”
Jackson Lee wants the board to turn the proposal down. She scheduled a news conference for later on Tuesday to ask Perry to denounce the proposal at the debate, a spokesperson said.
If the license-plate issue gains traction, it could complicate the Perry campaign’s efforts to move past reports questioning the his sensitivity to racial issues — including the recent report that the name of his family’s old hunting ranch contained a racial slur.
"This decision is up to the board," Perry campaign spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said in an email.
The DMV board's chairman, Victor Vandergriff, sought to distance Perry apart from the controversy.
"I want to make sure that everyone understands that Governor Perry did not bring this plate to the TxDMV Board and at no time has he asked for it to be approved," he said in a statement. Vandergriff noted that the earliest the proposal could be considered is November and that the board invites comments from the public.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who sponsored the proposal on behalf of Sons of Confederate Veterans, dismissed Jackson Lee’s criticism.
“I don’t have any interest in engaging with Sheila Jackson Lee, because she’s kind of funny,” Patterson said.