On 2020 presidential bid, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to CNN: ‘I have decided to run’

On 2020 presidential bid, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to CNN: ‘I have decided to run’
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has announced plans to run for president. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has announced she’s running for president in 2020.

The Hawaii Congresswoman made the announcement Friday on CNN after months of speculation that she’d launch a bid for the White House.

“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” Gabbard told CNN’s Van Jones on Friday.

“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. 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.

Later in the day, she wrote on Twitter: “When we stand together, united by our love for each other and for our country, there is no challenge we cannot overcome. Will you join me?”

Gabbard easily won re-election to her U.S. House seat in November for a fourth term.

But at the same time, she appeared to be testing the waters for a White House run. Last month, she met with Democrats in New Hampshire, traditionally the first state to hold a presidential primary.

“I think it’s great. I think it would be really good for Hawaii,” said Gabbard supporter Craig Lockwood.

Kailua resident Mary Wood said she is pleasantly surprised.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing. It will give us choice. There is not a lot of choice in the Democratic Party here in Hawaii. They all kind of march down the same line and believe the same things and they support each other. She will shake everything up,” Wood said.

She’s also coming out with a book in April, “Is Today the Day?”

And she has sought to insert herself into more national discussions, including this week, when she called out Democratic colleagues for how they questioned a judicial nominee.

Among the targets of her rebuke: U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who called Gabbard’s comments “off base.”

Gabbard also drew national headlines in November, when she took to Twitter to skewer the president on his Saudi Arabia policy using a profane word.

A number of political analysts have pointed out that while Gabbard is a star in some circles — including among the younger, more progressive wing of the Democratic Party — she lacks broad name recognition.

HNN political analyst Colin Moore says Gabbard will face what’s certain to be a crowded field of Democratic contenders bidding for the presidency.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren entered the 2020 race earlier this month, while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (who Gabbard supported in 2016) and former vice President Joe Biden are weighing presidential bids.

“Tulsi Gabbard has been on national media a lot,” Moore said.

“She does have a bit of a following among progressive Democrats, but most of the country has no idea who she is. If you’re from a small state its already harder to get your name out there.”

Gabbard has also raised eyebrows in recent years from those in her own party.

In January 2017, for example, Gabbard — a staunch anti-interventionist — met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an unannounced trip to the war-torn country.

At the time, Gabbard said she originally had no intention to meet with Assad, a decision that some onlookers said ran the risk of legitimizing the Syrian leader.

But Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who’s just 37 years old, has long positioned herself as a maverick.

She was elected to Hawaii’s Legislature at just 21. And in 2012, she beat out veteran Hawaii politician Mufi Hannemann to secure a seat in Congress.

Kealii Lopez, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said Gabbard’s entrance into the race is an “opportunity for Hawaii to continue its rich history of contributing to the diversity of the Democratic Party and be a part of important conversations in the year ahead.”

Gabbard represents Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. She was born in American Samoa and has a number of firsts to her name, including as the first Hindu-American in Congress.

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This story will be updated.

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