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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: 7 things you need to know

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By Roey Hadar

Gwen Ifill Fellow

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is the youngest woman running in the Democratic primary field at age 38. She announced her campaign on January 11.

Gabbard is an Iraq War veteran who has turned into an opponent of war and militarism. Some of her views on foreign policy have drawn bipartisan criticism.

Here are seven things you need to know about Gabbard.

  • Gabbard is a sitting member of the House of Representatives from Hawaii’s 1st congressional district in 2012. Gabbard is both the first Samoan-American and the first practicing Hindu to be elected to Congress.
  • In Congress, Gabbard is a member of the House Financial Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. In February 2019, after the Trump Administration announced plans to withdraw from a major nuclear treaty with Russia, Gabbard introduced a bill to block the Secretary of Defense from spending money on missiles the treaty had banned.
  • She won her first election in 2002, to Hawaii’s state House of Representatives, at age 21. She served one term but declined to run for re-election two years later after signing up for the Army National Guard and going to serve in Iraq. Gabbard still serves in the Army National Guard as a major.
  • She served as a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee but later resigned to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. Members of DNC leadership are not allowed to endorse a candidate publicly but cited her agreement with Sanders’ stance on military intervention as a justification for her decision.
  • Her views have changed on same-sex marriage. Now a supporter of LGBTQ rights, she worked in the early 2000s with a group called The Alliance for Traditional Marriage. The group, run by her father Hawaii State Senator Mike Gabbard, opposes same-sex marriage and supports conversion therapy. Since announcing her candidacy, Gabbard has apologized for her past anti-gay remarks
  • Gabbard opposes U.S. efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During a trip to Syria in January 2017, Gabbard drew bipartisan criticism for her decision to meet with Assad who has been accused of committing war crimes against Syrian people.  Recently, Gabbard declined to call the Syria leader a war criminal and insisted that “evidence needs to be gathered."
  • If elected, Gabbard would be the first president to be born in a U.S. territory. Gabbard was born in American Samoa, which has been a U.S. territory since 1889. Residents of American Samoa are not granted birthright citizenship. Both her parents were American citizens, so Gabbard was an American citizen by birth, but the question of whether somebody born in a territory is eligible to be president has never been tested in court.