Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has decided to run for president, she told CNN’s Van Jones on Friday.
“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 said in an interview due to be broadcast in full Saturday. She added that “the issue of war and peace” will be central for her. Gabbard said she would make a formal announcement within the next week.
Gabbard’s team has been in touch with Des Moines–based Asian & Latino Coalition about scheduling an event with them sometime this month. Brad Jenkins, who was associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement during the Obama administration, has been a part of that outreach.
Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, is the first Hindu and first American Samoan to be elected as a voting member of Congress. She gained national attention in 2016 when she resigned her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in protest of its handling of that year’s Democratic presidential primary, and endorsed Bernie Sanders. She was a frequent Sanders surrogate for the duration of his campaign.
Her rise in politics has been swift. She was first elected to the state legislature in Hawaii at 21, the youngest person to be elected to the body. During her first term in the legislature, she joined the Army National Guard and opted not to seek a second term when she was deployed to Iraq. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and to Congress in 2012.
Gabbard has been criticized for meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom the US has accused of using chemical weapons against his own people, during a fact-finding trip to Syria in 2017. She has also been criticized for changing her position on same-sex marriage, from being a vocal opponent in 2002 to supporting it now.
At 37, she will be one of the youngest candidates in the field.
House members typically struggle to make the leap to president, as they are often unknown outside of the district they represent. The last person to do so successfully was James Garfield in 1880. But Gabbard is not the only one to try — several of her House colleagues are expected to throw their hat the ring in a year where there is no obvious frontrunner and there seems to be little reason not to.