Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said Friday that she is running for president.
“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” she said during an interview on CNN’s “The Van Jones Show.”
Gabbard, a 37-year old combat veteran, has done little to hide her presidential ambitions. She recently made stops in both Iowa and New Hampshire and looked into hiring digital staff and speechwriters. She has also authored a memoir set to be released in May.
Late Friday, in a fundraising email, Gabbard said the reason she was running “has to do with an issue that is central to the rest — war and peace.”
She also cited healthcare, immigration reform, clean water and air, criminal justice and special interest influence in Washington.
The Hawaii Democrat’s entrance into the presidential primary field comes before an expected wave of similar announcements from higher profile candidates.
A recent Democracy for America survey of the liberal group’s members found that about 2 percent said Gabbard should run, behind better known potential 2020 contenders like Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden. Email
Within her party, the three-term congresswoman is viewed as a maverick with a penchant for bucking party orthodoxy. During the 2016 presidential election, Gabbard stepped down from her post as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee so she could endorse Sanders, making her one of the few House Democrats to back the Vermont senator over Hillary Clinton during the primary. She has since been associated with the Sanders movement — in her 2018 reelection campaign, she was endorsed by the Sanders-aligned Our Revolution outside group.
Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul G. Kirk, who was a Sanders surrogate alongside Gabbard in 2016, said it’s likely several candidates who backed Sanders in 2016 will join the field.
“From my point of view her running has less to do than who she supported in 2016 than how she feels about the country and what direction and vision she has and how she can make a difference,” Kirk said. Kirk added that he would be surprised if “there aren’t others who may have supported Sanders that think they have a pretty good opportunity.”
During the presidential transition period in 2016, the Hawaii Democrat met with then-President-elect Donald Trump, drawing condemnation from fellow Democrats. She also received widespread criticism in 2017 for meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision,” Gabbard told Jones. “There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve.” She pointed to access to health care, criminal justice reform and climate change.
“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” she said. “I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”
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