Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has announced she will be running for president of the United States in 2020, promising to centre her campaign on the issue of “war and peace”.
- Ms Gabbard says she will formally announce her candidacy within the next week
- The Iraq War veteran has promised to centre her campaign on the issue of “war and peace”
- She has courted controversy for her anti-interventionist foreign policy positions
In an interview with CNN, Ms Gabbard said she would be formally announcing her candidacy within the next week.
The 37-year-old Iraq War veteran is the first Hindu elected to Congress and the first member of Congress born in the US territory of American Samoa.
She has visited early primary and caucus states New Hampshire and Iowa in recent months and has written a memoir due to be published in May.
“There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve,” Ms Gabbard told CNN, listing health care access, criminal justice reform and climate change as key platform issues.
“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace.
“I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”
Ms Gabbard is joining what is expected to be a crowded Democratic field.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who announced her plans to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency last month, is moving quickly with trips across early primary states.
California senator Kamala Harris, New Jersey senator Cory Booker and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders are all weighing their own presidential bids and are expected to announce decisions in the upcoming weeks.
Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro plans to announce his run for the presidency this weekend.
Meeting with Assad and break from the DNC
Ms Gabbard’s run would not be without controversy.
In 2016, she alarmed fellow Democrats when she met with Donald Trump during his transition to president and later when she took a secret trip to Syria and met with President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of war crimes and genocide.
She questioned whether Assad was responsible for a chemical attack on civilians that killed dozens and led the US to attack a Syrian air base.
She said she does not regret the trip and considers it important to meet with adversaries if “you are serious about pursuing peace”.
She also noted that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on faulty intelligence and said that she wanted to understand the evidence of the Syria attack.
Ms Gabbard was one of the most prominent lawmakers to back Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
Her endorsement came in dramatic fashion, with her resigning as a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to express her support.
Asked last year whether she would still consider running if Senator Sanders ran, Ms Gabbard said Senator Sanders is a friend and she did not know what his plans were.
“I’m thinking through how I can best be of service and I’ll make my decision based on that,” she said.
According to CNN, Senator Sanders’s 2016 deputy campaign manager Rania Batrice will be Ms Gabbard’s campaign manager.