Beto O'Rourke says he'd suspend capital punishment at federal level

Several hours after announcing his bid for the White House, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, defined one significant aspect of his platform, saying he'd suspend capital punishment at the federal level.

O’Rourke hit the campaign trail on Thursday in Iowa. On his way to an appearance at Fort Madison High School, O’Rourke, who drove himself, spoke to Radio Iowa.

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The three-term congressman from El Paso was asked specifically about a recent decision by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign an executive order halting executions for the state’s 737 death row inmates.

“As president, would you suspend capital punishment at the federal level?” he was asked.

“I would. It’s not an equitable, fair, just system right now -- the guarantees and safeguards against wrongful prosecution, the disproportionate number of people of color who comprise our criminal justice system,” O’Rourke said.

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“And on moral grounds," he added, "I oppose the death penalty.”

O’Rourke did vote for a bill in 2017 called the Thin Blue Line Act that expanded “ the list of statutory aggravating factors in death penalty determinations” to include those who target or kill law enforcement personnel.

O’Rourke’s comments came just a day after the Democratic Governor Newsom signed an executive order that placed a moratorium on all executions at San Quentin State Prison. The order also withdrew lethal injection regulations but left convictions intact.

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“The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” Newsom said in a prepared statement obtained by the Southern California News Group.

The order goes against much of the state’s wishes, as California voters backed a measure in  2016 to speed up executions -- President Trump said neither he nor the victims’ families and friends were “thrilled” about Newsom's change of course.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.