Tulsi Gabbard (/ /; born April 12, 1981) is an American politician and Hawaii Army National Guard officer who serves as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district. Elected in 2012, she is the first Hindu member of Congress and also the first Samoan-American voting member of Congress. She was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 United States presidential election.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Hawaii's 2nd district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Mazie Hirono|
|Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee|
January 22, 2013 – February 27, 2016
|Chair||Debbie Wasserman Schultz|
|Preceded by||Mike Honda|
|Succeeded by||Grace Meng|
|Member of the Honolulu City Council|
from the 6th district
January 2, 2011 – August 16, 2012
|Preceded by||Rod Tam|
|Succeeded by||Carol Fukunaga|
|Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives|
from the 42nd district
December 2002 – December 2004
|Preceded by||Mark Moses|
|Succeeded by||Rida Cabanilla|
|Born||April 12, 1981|
Leloaloa, American Samoa
(m. 2002; div. 2006)
|Relatives||Mike Gabbard (father)|
|Education||Hawaii Pacific University (BSBA)|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||2003–present|
|Unit||Hawaii Army National Guard|
|Awards||Combat Medical Badge|
Meritorious Service Medal
In 2002, Gabbard was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives. Gabbard served in a field medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and was deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009 as Army Military Police platoon leader. She 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 supports a Medicare for All health care plan she calls "Single Payer Plus" and strengthening Roe v. Wade by codifying it into federal law. She co-sponsored the Family Act for paid family and medical leave and endorsed universal basic income. Until 2004 she voted and lobbied against same-sex marriage in Hawaii. She publicly apologized for that position in 2012. She apologized again after launching her presidential campaign in 2019. She opposes military interventionism and has called herself a "hawk" on terrorism. Her decision to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and her skeptical approach to two claims that he had used chemical weapons were controversial.
Gabbard was the first female combat veteran to run for president after running in 2020. On March 19, 2020, Gabbard dropped out of the 2020 race and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.
Early life and family
Gabbard was born on April 12, 1981, in Leloaloa, Maoputasi County, on American Samoa's main island of Tutuila. She was the fourth of five children born to Mike Gabbard and his wife Carol (née Porter) Gabbard. In 1983, when Gabbard was two years old, her family moved to Hawaii, where her family had lived in the late 1970s.
Gabbard was raised in a multicultural household. Her mother was born in Indiana and grew up in Michigan. Her father was born in American Samoa and lived in Hawaii and Florida as a child; he is of Samoan and European ancestry.
Gabbard was raised in part according to the teachings of the Science of Identity Foundation (SIF) religious community and its spiritual leader, Chris Butler. She has said Butler's work still guides her. In 2015, Gabbard called Butler her guru dev (roughly, "spiritual teacher"). Gabbard's husband and ex-husband have also been part of the community. Gabbard has been reluctant to speak publicly about the SIF.
Gabbard embraced the Hindu faith as a teenager. Her first name comes from the Sanskrit word for holy basil, a plant sacred in Hinduism. Her siblings also have Hindu Sanskrit-origin names. She was homeschooled through high school except for two years at informal schools in the Philippines.
In 1998, Gabbard began working for the Alliance for Traditional Marriage and Values, an anti-gay political action committee her father founded, to pass an amendment giving the Hawaii state legislature the power to "reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples". She spoke on the organization's behalf as late as 2004 and called those seeking marriage equality "a small number of homosexual extremists."
In 2002, while working as a self-employed martial arts instructor, Gabbard was the youngest legislator ever elected to represent the 42nd House District of the Hawaii House of Representatives.
In 2004, Gabbard volunteered for Army National Guard service in Iraq and chose not to campaign for reelection. Before her deployment to Iraq in 2004, she also worked as an educator for the Healthy Hawai'i Coalition.
In April 2003, while serving in the Hawaii State Legislature, Gabbard enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard. In July 2004, she was deployed for a 12-month tour in Iraq, serving as a specialist with the Medical Company, 29th Support Battalion, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In Iraq, Gabbard served at Logistical Support Area Anaconda, completing her tour in 2005.
In March 2007, she graduated from the Accelerated Officer Candidate School at the Alabama Military Academy. 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. She was deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009.
Gabbard is a recipient of the Combat Medical Badge and the Meritorious Service Medal. On October 12, 2015, she was promoted from captain to major at a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. She continues to serve as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
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.
Hawaii House of Representatives (2002–2004)
In 2002, after redistricting, Gabbard won the four-candidate Democratic primary with a plurality of 48% of the vote. Gabbard then defeated Republican Alfonso Jimenez in the general election, 65%–35%. At the age of 21, Gabbard became the youngest legislator ever elected in Hawaii's history and was at the time the youngest woman ever elected to a U.S. state legislature.
During her term of office, Gabbard successfully led opposition to, and protests of, a state bill that would have legalized same-sex civil unions and urged Hawaiians to support the Federal Marriage Amendment to prevent federal law from overriding state law with regard to same-sex marriage.
In 2004, Gabbard filed for reelection but then volunteered for Army National Guard service in Iraq. Rida Cabanilla, who filed to run against her, called on Gabbard to resign because she would not be able to represent her district from Iraq. Gabbard announced in August 2004 that she would not campaign for a second term, and Cabanilla won the Democratic primary, 64%–25%. State law prevented the removal of Gabbard's name from the ballot.
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 vacated by City Councilman Rod Tam, of the 6th district, who decided to retire in order to run for mayor of Honolulu. In the 10-candidate nonpartisan open primary in September 2010, Gabbard finished first with 33% of the vote. In the November 2 runoff election she defeated Sesnita Moepono, 58%–42%.
Gabbard introduced a measure to help food truck vendors by loosening parking restrictions. 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. After overcoming opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Occupy Hawai'i, Bill 54 passed and became City Ordinance 1129.
United States House of Representatives (2013–present)
2012 election and first term (113th Congress)
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. 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." Gabbard resigned from the City Council on August 16 to focus on her congressional campaign and to prevent the cost of holding a special election.
As the Democratic nominee, Gabbard spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina at the invitation of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who called Gabbard "an emerging star." She won the November 6, 2012, general election, defeating Republican Kawika Crowley by 168,503 to 40,707 votes (80.6%–19.4%), becoming the first Samoan-American[better source needed] and first Hindu member of Congress.
In December 2012, Gabbard applied to be considered for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Daniel Inouye, but despite support from prominent mainland Democrats, she was not among the three candidates the Democratic Party of Hawaii selected.
In March 2013, Gabbard introduced the Helping Heroes Fly Act, seeking to improve airport security screenings for severely wounded veterans. It passed Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. She also introduced the house version of the Military Justice Improvement Act.
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%).
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. The bill passed Congress and was signed into law by Obama in December 2016.
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%).
In 2017, Gabbard introduced the "Off Fossil Fuels (OFF) Act", which set a target of 2035 for transitioning the United States to renewable energy.
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.
Fourth term (116th Congress)
In March 2019, Attorney General William Barr asserted in his summary of the Mueller Report that the Special Counsel investigation had failed to find that members of Trump's 2016 campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government. In response, Gabbard commented that "finding the president of the United States not guilty of conspiring with a foreign power to interfere with our elections is a good thing for America." She subsequently reintroduced her election security bill, arguing that it would make foreign interference less likely in 2020.
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."
On October 25, 2019, Gabbard announced that she would not seek reelection to the House in 2020, citing her presidential campaign. Hawaii State Senator Kai Kahele had been challenging her for the Congressional seat. Kahele and the co-chair of his campaign, former Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie  criticized her for missing votes while campaigning for president, especially the vote on Syria; however, her absences were similar to other members of Congress running for president. Hawaii's Office of Elections forbids candidate filing for any of the state's 2020 elections after June 2, 2020.
- Committee on Homeland Security (2013–2014)
- Committee on Armed Services (2013–)
- Committee on Foreign Affairs (2013–2019)
- Committee on Financial Services (2019–)
- Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
- Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus
- Medicare for All Caucus
- U.S.-Japan Caucus
Democratic National Committee
On January 22, 2013, Gabbard was unanimously elected to a four-year term as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. In September 2015 she criticized 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, and to exclude from all future DNC-sanctioned debates any candidate who participated in a non-DNC sanctioned debate. Gabbard released a statement about the debate controversy in a Facebook post in 2015:
Following her public criticisms of the debate process, Gabbard was reported to have been either "disinvited" or asked to "consider not coming" to the October 13, 2015 Democratic debate in Las Vegas.[better source needed] In an interview with The New York Times, she spoke of an unhealthy atmosphere, saying, "no one told me I would be relinquishing my freedom of speech and checking it at the door" in taking the job. Gabbard privately wrote to Wasserman Schultz, accusing her of violating the DNC's duty of neutrality by favoring Hillary Clinton. This letter later became public in leaked emails published by WikiLeaks.
Gabbard resigned as DNC vice chair on February 28, 2016, in order to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the nomination for President of the United States. She was the first congresswoman to endorse Sanders and later gave the nominating speech putting his name forward at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
In July 2016, Gabbard launched a petition to end the Democratic Party's process of appointing superdelegates in the nomination process. She endorsed Keith Ellison for DNC chair in the 2017 chairmanship elections.
Gabbard was assigned as Bernie Sanders's running mate in California for any write-in votes for Sanders. Shortly after the election, she was mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2020.
2020 presidential campaign
Gabbard did not meet the polling threshold for the third presidential debate, prompting her to criticize the DNC's qualification criteria as not transparent. She did qualify for the fourth debate in Ohio in October 2019, but accused the media and the Democratic party of "rigging" the 2020 election, and briefly threatened to boycott the debate before deciding to participate.
In October 2019, former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was reported to have said that Russia was "grooming" a female Democrat to run as a third-party candidate who would help President Donald Trump win reelection via a spoiler effect. The media understood Clinton to be referring to Gabbard, which Clinton spokesperson Nick Merril seemed to confirm to CNN, saying "If the nesting doll fits"; however, Gabbard has repeatedly said she will not run as a third-party candidate in 2020. Gabbard was defended by a number of fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, who rejected Clinton's suggestion that Gabbard was a Russian asset. Trump also defended Gabbard. Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit against Clinton in January 2020, but dropped it five months later.
Gabbard's political positions are broadly similar to those of other 2020 Democratic primary contenders on healthcare, climate, education, infrastructure, and criminal justice reform. However, she has distinguishable positions on issues ranging from Democratic Party internal politics to foreign affairs.
Gabbard criticizes what she describes as a push by the "neoliberal/neoconservative war machine" for US involvement in "counterproductive, wasteful foreign wars", saying they have not made the United States any safer and have started a New Cold War and nuclear arms race. She has said that the money spent on war should be redirected to serve health care, infrastructure, and other domestic priorities. Nevertheless, she describes herself as both a hawk and a dove.
Drug policy and criminal justice reform
Gabbard 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". Gabbard has said that as president she would "end the failed war on drugs, legalize marijuana, end cash bail, and ban private prisons". Bills she has introduced include the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
Gabbard has spoken in favor of a Green New Deal but expressed concerns about vagueness in some proposed versions of the legislation and its inclusion of nuclear energy. She advocates her own Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act ("OFF Act") as legislation to transition the United States to clean renewable energy.
On January 18, 2017, Gabbard went on a one-week "fact-finding mission" to Syria and Lebanon, during which Gabbard met various political and religious leaders from Syria and Lebanon as well as regular citizens from both sides of the war, and also had two unplanned meetings with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. In April 2017 Gabbard expressed skepticism about claims that Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in Khan Shaykhun and which were followed by a military attack against Syria by the United States. Gabbard said, "a successful prosecution of Assad (at the International Criminal Court) w[ould] require collection of evidence from the scene of the incident" and that she "support[ed] the United Nations’ efforts in this regard". In a 2018 interview with The Nation, Gabbard said the United States had "been waging a regime change war in Syria since 2011." Gabbard has called Assad "… a brutal dictator. Just like Saddam Hussein."
Gabbard also criticized the Obama Administration, in more than 20 appearances on the Fox News network between 2013 and 2017, for "refusing" to say that the "real enemy" of the United States is "radical Islam" or "Islamic extremism."
On December 20, 2019, the Stop Arming Terrorists Act that she introduced in 2017 became law as part of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, § 1228 to prohibit the Department of Defense from "knowingly providing weapons or any other form of support to Al Qaeda" or other terrorist groups or any individual or group affiliated with any such organization.
Gabbard was a five-year "term member" of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). 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."
Gabbard criticized the U.S. military's 2020 Baghdad International Airport airstrike (which killed high-level Iranian General Qasem Soleimani) as an act of war by President Trump and a violation of the U.S. Constitution, arguing that the president did not have Congressional authorization for this act.
Healthcare and GMO labeling
Gabbard supports a national healthcare insurance program that covers uninsured as well as under-insured people and allows supplemental but not duplicative private insurance. She has called for addressing the national nursing shortage and supports clear GMO labeling, voting in 2016 against a GMO-labeling bill she said was too weak.
Impeachment of Donald Trump
Gabbard voted "present" when the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump in December 2019. In two video messages and a press release, she cited The Federalist Papers essay No. 69 and described her vote as a protest against "a political zero-sum game". Gabbard introduced H. Res. 766, which would censure Trump for several of his foreign policy decisions and "send a strong message to this president and future presidents that their abuses of power will not go unchecked, while leaving the question of removing Trump from office to the voters to decide." A week later, Gabbard said she had serious concern that the impeachment would increase the likelihood that her party would lose the presidential election and its majority in the House of Representatives.
In 1998, Gabbard supported her father's successful campaign to amend the Constitution of Hawaii to give lawmakers the power to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples. The Alliance for Traditional Marriage spent more than $100,000 opposing LGBT rights. In her campaign for the Hawaii legislature in 2002, Gabbard emphasized her role in getting a constitutional amendment passed that made same-sex marriage illegal in Hawaii and vowed to "bring that attitude of public service to the legislature".
As a Hawaii state legislator in 2004, Gabbard argued against civil unions, saying, "To try to act as if there is a difference between 'civil unions' and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii who have already made overwhelmingly clear our position on this issue... As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists." She opposed Hawaii House Bill 1024, which would have established legal parity between same-sex couples in civil unions and married straight couples, and led a protest against the bill outside the room where the House Judiciary Committee held the hearing. The same year she opposed research on LGBT students and disputed that Hawaii schools were rampant with anti-gay discrimination.
In 2012, Gabbard apologized for her "anti-gay advocacy" and said she would "fight for the repeal" of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In June 2013, she was an initial cosponsor of the legislation to repeal DOMA. After launching her presidential campaign in 2019, she apologized again and said that her views had been changed by her experience in the military "with LGBTQ service members both here at home and while deployed". She has been a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus during her first, third, and fourth terms in Congress, and received a 100% rating in her third term (improving from 88% and 92% in her previous two terms) for pro-LGBT legislation from the Human Rights Campaign, a group that advocates for LGBT rights.
Gabbard is vegan and, as a Hindu, follows Gaudiya Vaishnavism. She describes herself as a karma yogi. She values the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritual guide and took the oath of office in 2013 using her personal copy, which she gave to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a visit to India the following year.
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.
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The value that someone feels in themselves and their own lives is not defined by the job that they have but is intrinsic to who we all are as Americans.
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Leading establishment Democrats also expressed disgust: (...) Peter Daou, (...) Neera Tanden, (...) Brandon Friedman
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A successful prosecution of Assad (at the International Criminal Court) will require collection of evidence from the scene of the incident, and I support the United Nation’s efforts in this regard. Without such evidence, a successful prosecution is impossible.
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- "Rep. Gabbard Honored for Support of National Parks". MauiNow.com. July 17, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Tulsi Gabbard|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tulsi Gabbard.|
- Tulsi 2020 official presidential campaign website
- Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard official U.S. House website
- Tulsi Gabbard on the issues – TulsiGabbard.org
- Tulsi Gabbard for Congress
- Tulsi Gabbard at Curlie
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Tulsi Gabbard Video produced by Makers: Women Who Make America
- Tulsi Gabbard Marriage Tulsi Gabbard's marriage in Vedic tradition
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 2nd congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority