Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran who met dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria during that country's devastating civil war, has said that she is launching a U.S. presidential bid.
Gabbard is not of Indian descent but comes from a Hindu family in Hawaii and took her oath office on the Bhagavad Gita when she was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2011 and after her three re-elections.
She drew controversy when she met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in 2017 amidst the brutal civil war there. Before challenging President Donald Trump in the November 2020 elections, Gabbard has to fight against her own Democratic party colleagues during the primary elections beginning early that year.
"There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision", Gabbard told the broadcaster.
Gabbard served in a field medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard in a combat zone in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and was later deployed to Kuwait. Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris, who aggressively questioned the nominee, Brian Buescher, about his religious beliefs.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of MA on December 31 announced she had formed an exploratory committee for a presidential run in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic primary field before the November 2020 presidential election. After coming back home, she worked as a legislative aide to Sen. Gabbard remains popular with some liberals but will have serious competition with other candidates on the left flank of the party.
Gabbard certainly poses a thorny problem for the neocon-neoliberal axis, as she checks all the identity politics boxes - the first Hindu member of Congress, a woman, a veteran - and she has undeniable populist appeal, given her anti-establishment record. She also met with refugees and Syrian opposition leaders.
Gabbard, 37, is widely known for her unorthodox positions within the Democratic caucus. She is said to have supported in 2014 a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage nationwide, but later reversed her opinion and applauded a Supreme Court decision to legalise gay marriage across the US.
Gabbard's aide Rania Batrice will manage her presidential campaign.
Asked a year ago 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.
In 2015, Gabbard, then a vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was sharply critical of its then-chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for scheduling just six presidential debates during the 2016 primary election cycle.