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Beto Hires Ralph Northam’s Communications Adviser as First Democratic Debate Nears

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke hired the communications director for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Wednesday as Democrats gear up for the 2020 presidential election.

He hired Ofirah Yheskel, who formerly worked as Northam’s communications director, and three other people to round out his communications team. Rachel Thomas, hired from the Democratic digital organization ACRONYM, and Aleigha Cavalier as his national press secretary.

Yheskel was Hillary Clinton’s Wisconsin press secretary in 2016 before working on Northam’s 2017 campaign. She also worked on Wendy Davis’ bid for Texas governor.

“As Beto builds this historic grassroots campaign, we’re continuing to grow our national communications team that will enable us to reach every voter and share Beto’s vision for confronting the challenges facing our country,” O’Rourke campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement.

O’Rourke is one of 14 presidential candidates who reached criteria necessary to participate in the first debate of the presidential election season. To participate, Candidates must either receive donations from at 65,000 unique donors (with a minimum of 200 donors in more than 19 states) or achieve 1% support in three DNC-approved polls.

“Ofirah, Rachel, Aleigha and Anna bring a broad range of experiences from campaigns and organizations that will allow us to lift up the stories and ideas of people across America and empower every voter to have a stake in their future,” O’Malley Dillon said.

Northam is still in office more than four months after a photo from his medical school yearbook surfaced showing two people dressed in blackface and KKK robes. The photo is from Northam’s Eastern Virginia Medical School 1984 senior yearbook page and depicts two figures, one dressed in blackface and one sporting KKK robes. It surfaced Feb. 1.

Northam’s wife, Pam Northam, became embroiled in her own political debacle after she allegedly gave cotton to black students during a tour of the governor’s mansions. She reportedly asked the students “if they could imagine what it must have been like to pick cotton all day,” The Washington Post reported in March.

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