Perry opposes Confederate Texas license plate proposal [updated]
Perry, campaigning in Florida for the Republican presidential nomination, made the comments during an interview for Political Connections, a program set to air Sunday on Bay News 9, taped during his appearance at a fundraiser at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach.
Perry said he opposed the plan to offer the Texas license plates with the emblem, which includes the Confederate flag.
"We don't need to be scraping old wounds," Perry said.
Afterward, a spokeswoman clarified the governor's position.
"While the governor believes this is a decision for the DMV board, he personally does not support the Confederate plate," spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said via email.
Perry had previously deferred to the state's nine-member Department of Motor Vehicles board.
Supporters of the plate proposal said it's up to the board, not Perry.
“The governor isn’t the one that decides," said Granvel Block, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Texas division, based near the Louisiana border in Orange, Texas, although he acknowledged, "I’m sure he can influence it.”
Opponents of the proposal, including the NAACP, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Texas state Sen. Rodney Ellis, both Houston Democrats, have gathered more than 22,000 signatures on a petition against the plates, which they consider offensive. They plan to present the signatures to the DMV board.
Block says the officials, who held a rally in Houston last weekend, are grandstanding.
“Rather than worry about opening old wounds, they ought to heal them,” Block said. “They need to honor the soldiers.”
Block's group, which is based in Columbia, Tenn., and claims 30,000 members nationwide, has successfully sued to force several other states, including Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia, to issue similar plates. He said it was too early Wednesday to say whether his group would have to sue in Texas.
“Public opinion shouldn’t be what's in the mind of the board — it should be what’s legal,” Block said.
Ellis said opponents of the plates were pleased with Perry's comments, calling them "an appropriate gesture on his part," but he added that they were still gearing up for a fight if the board approves the plates or the Sons of Confederate Veterans sues the state.
"The full legal resources of the state of Texas ought to be used to keep that plate from going into effect," Ellis said.
Lee said Perry should follow up with a letter to the board making clear his opposition.
“We would like this matter to be closed,” she said.
She noted that the board voted on the proposal earlier this year, but with one member absent they were stuck in a tie and planned to vote again. The second vote was delayed when a member died suddenly and had to be replaced this summer with another Perry appointee. Lee said the matter should have ended with the first vote.
The new board member, Raymond Palacios Jr., an El Paso car dealer, declined to discuss his position ahead of the board vote. Marvin Rush, the board member absent during the last vote, also declined to discuss his position.
--Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Dallas
Graphic: The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles released an image of the proposed Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate. Credit: Texas DMV.