Beto O'Rourke says he'd put Stacey Abrams in charge of combating voter suppression

By Emily Tillett, Tim Perry

/ CBS News

Abrams: "Just as capable" of becoming president

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke says he'd put former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in charge of combating voter suppression if elected president. Speaking to supporters in Fort Worth on Friday, O'Rourke said he had a conversation on the subject with the rising star in the Democratic Party.

"I called her to thank her for all the work that she's doing on voting rights. And making sure that every person in this country can vote. And that every vote counts in this country," O'Rourke said. "We talked about how in our states of the former Confederacy, really ever since the end of reconstruction, we have drawn people out of their ability to participate in this Democracy."

While he didn't go into specifics about the details of the role, O'Rourke told the Texas crowd the country is in need of a "new voting rights act" and Abrams would play a part in that.

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"We need automatic voter registration so that when you turn 18 years old you are ready to go. We need same-day voter registration in this country. We need to end the practice of members of Congress choosing their voters. No more gerrymandering in the United States. And as president of the United States, if she's willing to do it, we will put Stacey Abrams in charge of this effort so that we get it done," he said.

Abrams narrowly lost the governor's race to Republican Brian Kemp back in November. She's since faulted the "mismanagement and malfeasance" of the Georgia election process for her loss, citing serious concerns over voting irregularities.

A spokesperson for O'Rourke's campaign later told CBS that "Beto believes he would be fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Ms. Abrams in any capacity and looks forward to continuing to follow her incredible lead on the many efforts she's championing including protecting voting rights and fighting to increase access to the ballot box."

Abrams, whose own 2020 run has been heavily speculated in recent months, announced in a social media video last week that she would not be seeking a 2020 Senate bid, further fueling rumors about a presidential run. Despite the numerous calls for her to seek public office once again, Abrams said she is "committed to doing everything I can do hep elect a Democrat" to the Georgia senate seat next year.

While Abrams said in that video she doesn't know exactly what's in store for her political future, she said America is "under attack" and will continue to work to defeat acts of voter suppression in her home state and across the country.

When asked about the potential offer by O'Rourke, a spokesperson for Abrams told CBS News, "As she thinks about her own campaign for the Presidency, Leader Abrams has taken the time to speak with numerous Democrats who are already running about the need to combat voter suppression and about the importance of Georgia's 16 electoral votes."

First published on May 4, 2019 / 12:20 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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