Tulsi Gabbard Has Jumped Into The 2020 Presidential Race

by Morgan Brinlee
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After months of speculation, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said she's running for president in 2020. Gabbard told CNN's Van Jones in an interview set to air Saturday that she'll make a formal announcement soon. Gabbard is one of several Democrats starting to throw their hats into the ring as a potential challengers to President Donald Trump in the next presidential election.

"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, according to CNN. "There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace. I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement."

Gabbard is also be the first woman among Democrats to say the magic words that she's running (Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on New Year's Eve that she was exploring a run).

Gabbard made history in 2012 when she was the first Hindu elected to Congress. She also drew national attention when, during the 2016 Democratic primary, she resigned as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in order to endorse Bernie Sanders for president.

The Hawaii congresswoman is broadly liberal in her political views, and supports many policies, such as Medicare-for-all, that are trademarks of the Democratic Party's left wing. However, she has also expressed views or taken actions that put her directly and starkly at odds with most Democrats and leftists. Guardian writer Sabrina Siddiqui described Gabbard as "a paradox of the progressive movement."

In 2015, for instance, Gabbard voted for a GOP-led bill that imposed additional restrictions on Syrian and Iraqi refugees entering the United States. Like President Trump and most Republicans, she insists on using the phrase "radical Islamic terror" to describe the actions of the Islamic State and other terror groups, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer in 2016 that it's "important that you identify your enemy." Gabbard also was one of the few Democrats to meet with Trump during his presidential transition, and met one-on-one with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after he was accused of using chemical weapons in his country's civil war.

Gabbard also held severely anti-gay views during her time as a state politician in Hawaii, at one point testifying against a bill to legalize same-sex civil unions and denouncing "homosexual extremists." However, in 2011 she wrote about her evolution on the issue, and she now supports marriage equality.

Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Gabbard was first said to be considering a 2020 bid in October, when Politico reported that one of her advisers was "putting out feelers" about hiring staff. Then in December, Gabbard told the Associated Press that she was "thinking through very carefully" her decision to launch a 2020 campaign. She'd already visited Iowa and New Hampshire, two states known for holding some of the earliest primaries and caucuses, according to the news outlet.

The 2020 Democratic primary field is expected to be one of the most crowded, with upwards of 30 legislators and politicians expected to potentially announce White House bids. So far, Warren, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Maryland Rep. John Delaney, West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang have all launched 2020 campaigns or exploratory committees, a standard precursor to a formal campaign.

Seth Millstein contributed to this story.