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Gabbard's domestic policy platform in her campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination is economically and socially progressive and has been described as "similar to Bernie Sanders ... in many respects". She supports Medicare for All and strengthening the reproductive rights framework of Roe v Wade by codifying it into federal law. She voted and lobbied against LGBT rights in Hawaii prior to her first tour of duty, but since 2011 Gabbard has apologized for her earlier positions and now supports LGBT rights. Gabbard opposes military interventionism but has called herself a "hawk" on terrorism. Her decision to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and expressions of skepticism about his use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War attracted controversy. On October 25, 2019, Gabbard announced that she will not seek another term in Congress.
On August 7, 2018, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the Hawaii Army National Guard had instructed Gabbard that a video of her in uniform on her VoteTulsi Facebook page did not comply with military ethics rules. Gabbard's campaign removed the video and added a disclaimer to the website's banner image of Gabbard in uniform in a veterans' cemetery that the image does not imply an endorsement from the military. A similar situation had happened during a previous Gabbard congressional campaign. A spokeswoman for Gabbard said the campaign would work closely with the Department of Defense to ensure compliance with all regulations.
Hawaii House of Representatives (2002-2004)
In 2002, after redistricting, Gabbard (as Tulsi Tamayo) ran to represent the 42nd House District of the Hawaii House of Representatives. She won the four-candidate Democratic primary with a plurality of 48% of the vote. Gabbard then defeated Republican Alfonso Jimenez in the general election, 65%-35%. At the age of 21, Gabbard became the youngest legislator ever elected in Hawaii's history and the youngest woman ever elected to a U.S. state legislature.
In 2004, Gabbard filed for reelection, but then volunteered for Army National Guard service in Iraq. Cabanilla, who filed to run against her, called on the incumbent to resign because she would not be able to represent her district from Iraq. Gabbard chose not to campaign for a second term, and Cabanilla won the Democratic primary, 64%-25%.
Honolulu City Council (2011-2012)
After returning home from her second deployment to the Middle East in 2009, Gabbard ran for a seat on the Honolulu City Council. Incumbent City Councilman Rod Tam, of the 6th district, decided to retire in order to run for Mayor of Honolulu. In the ten-candidate nonpartisan open primary in September 2010, Gabbard finished first with 33% of the vote. In the November 2 runoff election she defeated Sesnita Moepono, 58%-42%.
As a Honolulu City Councilwoman, Gabbard introduced a measure to help food truck vendors by loosening parking restrictions. She also introduced Bill 54, a measure that authorized city workers to confiscate personal belongings stored on public property with 24 hours' notice to its owner. After overcoming opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Occupy Hawai'i, Bill 54 passed and became City Ordinance 1129.
On April 30, 2011, Gabbard informed her constituents that she was resuming the use of her maiden name and that there would be no cost to city taxpayers for reprinting City Council materials containing her name. She resigned from the council on August 16, 2012, to focus on her congressional campaign.
United States House of Representatives (2013-present)
In December 2012, Gabbard applied to be considered for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Daniel Inouye, but despite support from prominent mainland Democrats, she was not among the three candidates the Democratic Party of Hawaii selected.
Gabbard was reelected in 2018, defeating Republican nominee Brian Evans by 153,271 to 44,850 votes (77.4%-22.6%).
In 2018, Gabbard introduced the "Securing America's Election Act", a bill to require all districts to use paper ballots, yielding an auditable paper trail in the event of a recount. Common Cause endorsed the bill. In March 2019, Attorney General William Barr asserted in his summary of the Mueller Report that the Special Counsel investigation had failed to find that members of Trump's 2016 campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government. In response, Gabbard commented that "finding the president of the United States not guilty of conspiring with a foreign power to interfere with our elections is a good thing for America." She subsequently reintroduced her election security bill, arguing that it would make foreign interference less likely in 2020.
In September 2018, Gabbard and Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) co-sponsored the No More Presidential Wars Act, an effort to "reclaim the responsibility Congress has to be the body that declares war, to end these presidential wars that are being fought without the authorization of Congress."
On October 25, 2019, Gabbard announced that she will not seek reelection to the House in 2020. She had been facing a serious primary challenge from Hawaii State Senator Kai Kahele, who had criticized her absence from Congress during her presidential campaign.
On January 22, 2013, Gabbard was unanimously elected to a four-year term as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. She was critical of chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's decision to hold only six debates during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries, compared with 26 in 2008 and 15 in 2004. Along with Minneapolis mayor R. T. Rybak and two candidates, Gabbard called for more debates, appearing on multiple news outlets to express her dissatisfaction with the reduction in the number. Later she was either "disinvited" or asked to "consider not coming" to the Democratic debate in Las Vegas as a consequence. In a phone interview with the New York Times, Gabbard spoke of an unhealthy atmosphere and the feeling that she had "checked [her free speech] at the door" in taking the job. Gabbard privately accused Wasserman Schultz of violating the DNC's duty of neutrality by favoring Hillary Clinton. This later became public in leaked emails published by WikiLeaks.
Gabbard was assigned as Bernie Sanders's running mate in California for any write-in votes for Sanders. Shortly after the election, Gabbard was mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2020.
2020 presidential campaign
Gabbard campaigning for president in San Francisco, California
Tulsi Gabbard 2020 presidential campaign logo
On February 2, 2019, Gabbard officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign, saying that it was in the "spirit of service above self" that she announced her candidacy.CNN described her foreign policy platform as anti-interventionalist and her economic platform as populist.
Gabbard was the most frequently Googled candidate after the first, second, and fourth 2020 Democratic debates. In the second debate, she assailed Senator Kamala Harris over her record as a prosecutor, saying Harris owed an apology to the people who "suffered under your reign." In the fourth debate, Gabbard accused hosts CNN and The New York Times of attacking her, saying, "Just two days ago, The New York Times put out an article saying that I'm a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I'm an asset of Russia. Completely despicable." Gabbard said the "smears" against her stemmed from her opposition to "regime change war" in Syria.
Gabbard did not meet the polling threshold for the third presidential debate in time for the August 28 deadline. The following day, she criticized DNC's qualification criteria, saying that the DNC process of developing those criteria lacked transparency. On September 24, Gabbard qualified for the fourth debate in Ohio in October 2019 after gaining her fourth qualifying poll. In October, Gabbard accused the media and the Democratic party of "rigging" the 2020 election, and briefly threatened to boycott the fourth debate. On October 14, she announced in a letter to supporters that she would attend the debate.
On October 18, 2019, Hillary Clinton was reported to have said that Russia was "grooming" a female Democrat to run as a third-party candidate who would help President Trump win reelection via a spoiler effect. She said that, along with Jill Stein, "she is also a Russian asset". The media understood Clinton to be referring to Gabbard, which Clinton spokesperson Nick Merril seemed to confirm to CNN, saying "If the nesting doll fits"; however, Gabbard has repeatedly said she will not run as a third-party candidate in 2020. Later the same day, Gabbard responded to Clinton by tweet, calling her a "corrupt warmonger", and writing that "we now know" it was Clinton behind what Gabbard called a "concerted campaign to destroy my reputation". Fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg;, John Delaney,, Bernie Sanders, as well as President Trump and Nina Turner defended Gabbard and criticized Clinton's remarks. About a week after the initial reports, mainstream media corrected their reporting to say it was not Russians but Republicans who Clinton thought were doing the grooming. CNN reported in early November that after Clinton called Gabbard "a favorite of the Russians", Gabbard's poll numbers rose by at least two percentage points, making her eligible for the upcoming debate.
On October 25, 2019, Gabbard announced that she would not seek re-election to her house seat in 2020 in order to focus on her presidential campaign.
Nonprofit organizations and associations
In 1996, Gabbard and her father, Mike Gabbard, co-founded Healthy Hawai?i Coalition, an environmental educational group.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Gabbard and her father co-founded the nonprofit Stand Up For America (SUFA). SUFA's website profiled Gabbard and hosted letters she wrote during her deployments overseas. In September 2010, SUFA's website came under criticism for promoting her campaign for the Honolulu City Council. Gabbard said the improper addition "was an honest mistake from a volunteer," and the page and link in question were immediately removed.
Gabbard was a five-year "term member" of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). When asked about her involvement in it, she said that while many in CFR did not share her worldview, "If we only sit in rooms with people who we agree with, then we won't be able to bring about the kind of change that we need to see."
Gabbard's platform is broadly similar to those of other Democratic primary contenders on healthcare, climate, education, infrastructure, and criminal justice reform. The key point on which she differs from the other candidates is that, for Gabbard, foreign and domestic policy are inseparable. She criticizes what she terms the "neoliberal/neoconservative war machine", which pushes for US involvement in "wasteful foreign wars". She has said that the money spent on war should be redirected to serve domestic needs. Nevertheless, she describes herself as both a hawk and a dove: "When it comes to the war against terrorists, I'm a hawk", but "when it comes to counterproductive wars of regime change, I'm a dove."
Gabbard has taken unconventional stances on issues ranging from Democratic Party internal politics to foreign affairs. She resigned from the DNC over dissatisfaction with the reduction in the number of primary debates in 2016, and to support Bernie Sanders in the primary. In 2017, she had an unplanned meeting with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and expressed skepticism about accusations that Assad had ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians, calling for a U.N. investigation into the attack and, should he be found responsible, prosecution of Assad at the International Criminal Court. In a 2018 interview with The Nation, Gabbard said the United States had "been waging a regime change war in Syria since 2011. Central to that war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad, the U.S., along with its allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, has been providing direct and indirect support to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda". She also criticized the Obama Administration for "refusing" to say that "Islamic extremists" are waging a war against the United States. Gabbard called Assad a "brutal dictator."
Standing with fellow House Democrats to demand a vote on gun control measures
Gabbard supports a national healthcare insurance program that covers uninsured as well as under-insured people and allows supplemental but not duplicative private insurance. She has called for addressing the national nursing shortage and supports clear GMO labeling, voting in 2016 against a GMO-labeling bill she said was too weak. She has spoken in favor of a Green New Deal but has expressed concerns about vagueness in some proposed versions of the legislation. She has been outspoken against a "broken criminal justice system" that puts "people in prison for smoking marijuana" while allowing pharmaceutical corporations responsible for "opioid-related deaths of thousands to walk away scot-free with their coffers full."
Gabbard joined the House LGBT Equality Caucus in 2019, and has a 100% record in Congress for pro-LGBT legislation from the Human Rights Campaign, a group that advocates for LGBT rights. Gabbard's position on LGBT issues has changed over the course of her lifetime. In 1998, at age 17, she campaigned for an anti-gay rights organization founded by her father. She continued to oppose gay rights after becoming a state representative, when she testified at a Hawaii legislative hearing in opposition to civil unions. Since then, Gabbard has apologized for her previous stances, and has said that her views were changed by her experience in the military "with LGBTQ service members both here at home and while deployed" as well as seeing "the destructive effect of having governments ... act as moral arbiters for their people."
In 2002, Gabbard married Eduardo Tamayo. They divorced in 2006. She cites "the stresses war places on military spouses and families" as a reason for their divorce. In 2015, Gabbard married freelance cinematographer and editor Abraham Williams in a traditional Vedic wedding ceremony, wearing blue silk.
Awards and honors
On November 25, 2013, Gabbard received the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award at a ceremony at the Institute of Politics at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government for her efforts on behalf of veterans.
On March 26, 2014, Elle honored Gabbard, with others, at the Italian Embassy in the United States during its annual "Women in Washington Power List".
^"Tulsi Gabbard". Honolulu Civil Beat. Retrieved 2012. After being deployed to the Middle East for a second time in 2008, she returned to Hawaii to complete a degree in international business from Hawaii Pacific University.
^"Hawai'i Veteran Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo Returns Home to Serve". Stand Up For America. Archived from the original on September 8, 2010. Retrieved 2012. It was a long year for us, but we are so proud of Tulsi and our other soldiers for what they accomplished in the Middle East. They played a part in making history in Iraq. They represented our state very well. They completed the mission, and came home. Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the 29th BCT soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and freedom, and in our hearts, we share their pain.