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Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard (/ˈtʌlsi ˈɡæbərd/; born April 12, 1981) is an American politician and military combat veteran serving as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district. She is a member of the Democratic Party. Elected in 2012, she became the first Samoan American and the first Hindu member of Congress.

Gabbard served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 2002 to 2004. Elected at age 21, she was the youngest woman to be elected to a state legislature. 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 deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009.

Gabbard was a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2013 to 2016, when she resigned to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

Gabbard opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She is critical of interventionism in Iraq, Libya, Venezuela,[1] and Syria. She supports abortion rights, Medicare for all, and same-sex marriage.

Gabbard is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in 2020.

Tulsi Gabbard
Member of theU.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's2nddistrict
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded byMazie Hirono
Vice Chair of the
Democratic National Committee
In office
January 22, 2013 – February 27, 2016
ChairDebbie Wasserman Schultz
Preceded byMike Honda
Succeeded byGrace Meng
Member of the Honolulu City Council
from the 6th district
In office
January 2, 2011 – August 16, 2012
Preceded byRod Tam
Succeeded byCarol Fukunaga
Member of theHawaii House of Representatives
from the 42nd district
In office
Preceded byMark Moses
Succeeded byRida Cabanilla
Personal details
Born(1981-04-12)April 12, 1981
Leloaloa, American Samoa, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Eduardo Tamayo
(m. 2002;div. 2006)

Abraham Williams (m. 2015)
RelativesMike Gabbard (father)
EducationHawaii Pacific University (BSBA)
WebsiteHouse website [174]
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service2003–present
RankUS-O4 insignia.svgMajor
UnitSeal of the United States Army National Guard.svgHawaii Army National Guard
Battles/warsIraq War

Early life and education

Gabbard was born on April 12, 1981, in Leloaloa, Maoputasi County, on American Samoa's main island of Tutuila.[2][3] She was the fourth of five children born to Mike Gabbard and his wife Carol (née Porter) Gabbard.[4] In 1983, when Gabbard was two years old, her family moved to Hawaii. Her father is a member of the Hawaii Senate.[5]

Gabbard was raised in a multicultural and multireligious household. Her father is of Samoan and European ancestry and an active lector at his Catholic church. Her mother, who was born in Decatur, Indiana, is of German descent and a practicing Hindu. Gabbard chose Hinduism as her religion while she was a teenager.[6][4][7]

Gabbard was home-schooled through high school except for two years at a Christian missionary academy for girls in the Philippines.[8] She graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 2009.[9][10][11]

Military service

Gabbard at the ceremony of her promotion to major on October 12, 2015

Gabbard at the ceremony of her promotion to major on October 12, 2015

In April 2003, while serving in the State Legislature, Gabbard enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard.[12] In July 2004, she was deployed for a 12-month tour in Iraq, serving as a specialist [13] with the Medical Company, 29th Support Battalion, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.[14] Gabbard served at Logistical Support Area Anaconda in Iraq, completing her tour in 2005.[15][16] Anaconda had the nickname "Mortaritaville" because of the high frequency of Iraqi insurgent mortars targeting it.[17]

In 2006, Gabbard began serving as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka in Washington, D.C.,[18] and in March 2007, she graduated from the Accelerated Officer Candidate School at the Alabama Military Academy. Gabbard was the first woman to finish as the distinguished honor graduate in the Academy's 50-year history.[19][18][20][21] She was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to the 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Hawaii Army National Guard, this time to serve as an Army Military Police officer.[22][23][24] She was deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009. There, as a primary trainer for the Kuwait National Guard, she was among the first women to ever set foot inside a Kuwait military facility. She was also the first woman to be honored for outstanding work in its training program.[25][26][16][27]

On October 12, 2015, Gabbard was promoted from captain to major at a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Akaka administered the oath of office to the new major.[28][29] She continues to serve as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard.[30]

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.[31]

Military decorations and badges

Political career

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 over Rida Cabanilla.[33][34] Gabbard then defeated Republican Alfonso Jimenez in the general election, 65%–35%.[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.[19][36][19]

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.[37] Gabbard chose not to campaign for a second term,[38] and Cabanilla won the Democratic primary, 64%–25%.[39]

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.[40] 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.[41] In the November 2 runoff election she defeated Sesnita Moepono, 58%–42%.[42]

As a Honolulu City Councilwoman, Gabbard introduced a measure to help food truck vendors by loosening parking restrictions.[43] 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.[44][45] After overcoming opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)[46] and Occupy Hawai'i,[47] Bill 54 passed and became City Ordinance 1129.

On April 30, 2011, Gabbard informed her constituents that she was resuming the use of her birth name, Tulsi Gabbard, and that there would be no cost to city taxpayers for reprinting City Council materials containing her name.[48] She resigned from the council on August 16, 2012, to focus on her congressional campaign.[49]

United States House of Representatives (2013–present)

2012 election

Gabbard in 2012

Gabbard in 2012

In early 2011, Mazie Hirono, the incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district, announced that she would run for the United States Senate. In May 2011, Gabbard announced her candidacy for Hirono's House seat.[50] She was endorsed by the Sierra Club,[51] Emily's List[52] and VoteVets.org.[53] The Democratic Mayor of Honolulu, Mufi Hannemann, was the best-known candidate in the six-way primary, but Gabbard won with 62,882 votes (55%); the Honolulu Star-Advertiser called her win an "improbable rise from a distant underdog to victory."[54] Gabbard resigned from the City Council on August 16 to prevent the cost of holding a special election.[55][56]

As the Democratic nominee, Gabbard traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, and spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention[57] at the invitation of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who called Gabbard "an emerging star".[58] Gabbard credited grassroots support for her come-from-behind win in the primary.[59] She won the November 6, 2012, general election, defeating Republican Kawika Crowley by 168,503 to 40,707 votes (80.6%–19.4%),[60] becoming the first Samoan-American[61] and first Hindu member of Congress.[62][63]

In December 2012, Gabbard applied to be considered for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Daniel Inouye,[64] but despite support from prominent mainland Democrats,[65][66] she was not among the three candidates the Democratic Party of Hawaii selected.[67]

First term (113th Congress)

Gabbard speaks at the 135th National Guard Association of the United States conference in 2013

Gabbard speaks at the 135th National Guard Association of the United States conference in 2013

In March 2013, Gabbard introduced the Helping Heroes Fly Act [175] , seeking to improve airport security screenings for severely wounded veterans. It passed Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama.[68][69][70] She also led an effort to pass legislation to assist victims of military sexual trauma.[71][72][73]

Second term (114th Congress)

Gabbard was reelected on November 8, 2014, defeating Crowley again, by 142,010 to 33,630 votes (78.7%–18.6%); Libertarian candidate Joe Kent garnered 4,693 votes (2.6%).[74]

Along with Senator Hirono, Gabbard introduced a bill to award Filipino and Filipino American veterans who fought in World War II the Congressional Gold Medal.[75] The bill passed Congress[76] and was signed into law by Obama in December 2016.[77]

Gabbard also introduced Talia's Law, to prevent child abuse and neglect on military bases. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in December 2016.[78][79][80]

Third term (115th Congress)

Gabbard was reelected on November 8, 2016, defeating Republican nominee Angela Kaaihue by 170,848 to 39,668 votes (81.2%–18.8%).[81]

Fourth term (116th Congress)

Gabbard was reelected in 2018,[82] defeating Republican nominee Brian Evans by 153,271 to 44,850 votes (77.4%–22.6%).

In 2017, Gabbard introduced the "Off Fossil Fuels (OFF) Act", which set a target of 2035 for transitioning the United States to renewable energy. It was endorsed by Food and Water Watch.[83]

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.[84] When Attorney General William Barr issued his statement summarizing the Mueller Report which, he asserted, failed to find that members of Trump's 2016 campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government, Gabbard called this "a good thing for America". She subsequently reintroduced her election security bill, arguing that it would make foreign interference less likely in 2020.[85]

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.”[5]

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Armed Services (2013–) Subcommittee on Readiness Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities

  • Committee on Foreign Affairs (2013–2019) Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa

  • Committee on Financial Services (2019–) Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion

Caucus membership

  • Congressional Progressive Caucus[86]

  • Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus[87]

  • Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus[88]

  • Medicare For All Caucus[89][90]

  • U.S.-Japan Caucus[91]

Democratic National Committee

On January 22, 2013, Gabbard was unanimously elected to a four-year term as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.[92] 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.[93][94] 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.[95] 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.[96][97]

Gabbard resigned as DNC vice chair on February 28, 2016, in order to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the nomination.[98][99] She was the first congresswoman to endorse Sanders[100] and later gave the nominating speech putting his name forward at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.[101]

In July 2016, Gabbard launched a petition to end the Democratic Party's process of appointing superdelegates in the nomination process.[102] She endorsed Keith Ellison for DNC chair in the 2017 chairmanship elections.[103]

Gabbard was assigned as Bernie Sanders's running mate in California for any write-in votes for Sanders.[104]

Shortly after the election, Gabbard was mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2020.[105][106]

2020 presidential campaign

Gabbard campaigning for president in San Francisco, California

Gabbard campaigning for president in San Francisco, California

Tulsi Gabbard 2020 presidential campaign logo

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.[107] CNN described her foreign policy platform as anti-interventionalist and her economic platform as populist.[107]

Gabbard was the most frequently Googled candidate after both the first[108][109] and second[110] 2020 Democratic debates. During the second democratic debates, Gabbard assailed Senator Kamala Harris over her record as a prosecutor, saying Harris owed an apology to the people who "suffered under your reign".[111]

Gabbard failed to 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.[112] However, on September 24, 2019 she qualified for the fourth debate in Ohio in October after gaining her fourth qualifying poll.[113]

Nonprofit organizations and associations

Gabbard and her father co-founded Healthy Hawaiʻi Coalition, an environmental educational group.[114]

Gabbard was also a cofounder of the nonprofit Stand Up For America (SUFA),[115] which she and her father co-founded in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.[116] SUFA's website profiled Gabbard[117] and hosted letters from her sent during her deployments overseas.[118][119] 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.[115]

Gabbard was a 5-year ‘term member'[120] of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).[121][122] 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.”[123]

Political positions

Gabbard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia

Gabbard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia

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."[124][125][126][127][128]

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.[94][93][98][99] In 2017, she met 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 by the International Criminal Court.[126][129][130] She also criticized the Obama Administration for "refusing" to say that "Islamic extremists" are waging a war against the United States.[131]

Gabbard supports a national healthcare insurance program that covers uninsured as well as underinsured people[132] and allows supplemental but not duplicative private insurance.[133] She has called for addressing the national nursing shortage[134] and supports clear GMO labeling,[135][136] voting in 2016 against a GMO-labeling bill she said was too weak.[137] She has spoken in favor of a Green New Deal but has expressed concerns about vagueness in some of the legislation's proposed versions.[138] 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."[139]

Gabbard is a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, and has a 100% record in Congress for pro-LGBT legislation from the Human Rights Campaign, a group that advocates for LGBT rights.[140] 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.[141][142] 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"[143] as well as seeing "the destructive effect of having governments … act as moral arbiters for their people."[141]

Gabbard protested the construction of the final leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016.[144][145]

Personal life

Gabbard's first name comes from Sanskrit. Tulsi is the name for Holy Basil, a plant sacred in Hinduism.[146] Her siblings also have Hindu Sanskrit-origin names.[4] During her childhood Gabbard excelled in martial arts.[147] In 2002, she was a martial arts instructor.[148] She is vegan[149] and, as a Hindu, follows Gaudiya Vaishnavism,[8] a religious movement founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the 16th century. Gabbard describes herself as a karma yogi.[150] She values the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritual guide,[151] and used it when she took the oath of office in 2013.[152][153]

Gabbard has said that she is pleased that her election gives hope to young American Hindus who "can be open about their faith, and even run for office, without fear of being discriminated against or attacked because of their religion".[154]

In 2002, Gabbard married Eduardo Tamayo.[48][155] They divorced in 2006. She cites "the stresses war places on military spouses and families" as a reason for their divorce.[156] In 2015, Gabbard married freelance cinematographer and editor Abraham Williams.[157][158]

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.[159]

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".[160]

On July 15, 2015, Gabbard received the Friend of the National Parks Award from the National Parks Conservation Association.[161]

See also

  • List of Asian Americans and Pacific Islands Americans in the United States Congress

  • Women in the United States House of Representatives


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