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Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard (/ˈtʌlsi ˈɡæbərd/, born April 12, 1981) is an American politician of the Democratic Party serving as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii's

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Tulsi Gabbard Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 2nd district Incumbent Assumed office
January 3, 2013Preceded by Mazie HironoMember of the Honolulu City Council
from the 6th district In office
January 2, 2011 – August 16, 2012Preceded by Rod TamSucceeded by Carol FukunagaMember of the Hawaii House of Representatives
from the 42nd district In office
2002–2004Preceded by Mark MosesSucceeded by Rida Cabanilla Personal detailsBorn (1981-04-12) April 12, 1981 (age 37)
Leloaloa, American Samoa, U.S.Political party DemocraticSpouse(s) Eduardo Tamayo
(m. 2002; div. 2006)
Abraham Williams (m. 2015)Parents Mike Gabbard
Carol PorterEducation Hawaii Pacific University (BS)Signature Website House websiteMilitary serviceAllegiance  United StatesService/branch  United States Army
Years of service 2004–presentRank MajorUnit Hawaii Army National GuardBattles/wars Iraq WarAwards Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal (with oak leaf cluster)
Army Achievement Medal (with oak leaf cluster)[1]

Tulsi Gabbard (/ˈtʌlsi ˈɡæbərd/, born April 12, 1981) is an American politician of the Democratic Party serving as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district since 2013. She was also a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee until February 28, 2016, when she resigned to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.[2] Elected in 2012, she is the first Samoan American[3] and the first Hindu member of the United States Congress.[4]

She 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.[5] Gabbard previously served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 2002 to 2004, becoming at age 21 the youngest woman to be elected to a U.S. state legislature at the time.[6]

Gabbard is noted for her unorthodox political positions within her party.[7] Gabbard supports abortion rights, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has called for a restoration of the Glass–Steagall Act, and changed her stance to support same-sex marriage in 2012. She is critical of aspects of American government policy regarding Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and opposes removing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power.

  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Political career
    • 2.1 Hawaii House of Representatives (2002–2004)
      • 2.1.1 Elections
      • 2.1.2 Tenure
    • 2.2 Honolulu City Council (2011–2012)
      • 2.2.1 Elections
      • 2.2.2 Tenure
    • 2.3 United States House of Representatives (2013–present)
      • 2.3.1 Elections
      • 2.3.2 Tenure
      • 2.3.3 Committee assignments
      • 2.3.4 Caucus membership
    • 2.4 Democratic National Committee
    • 2.5 Syria trip and ethics controversy
    • 2.6 2020 presidential campaign speculation
  • 3 Military service (2004–present)
  • 4 Non-profit organizations and associations
  • 5 Political positions
    • 5.1 Economics
      • 5.1.1 Trans-Pacific Partnership
      • 5.1.2 India
      • 5.1.3 Iran
      • 5.1.4 Iraq and Afghanistan
      • 5.1.5 Pakistan
      • 5.1.6 Saudi Arabia
      • 5.1.7 Syria
      • 5.1.8 Counterterrorism
    • 5.2 Environment
    • 5.3 Social issues and civil rights
      • 5.3.1 Abortion and birth control
      • 5.3.2 Drones
      • 5.3.3 LGBT issues
      • 5.3.4 Marijuana
      • 5.3.5 Native Hawaiians as indigenous people
    • 5.4 Trump administration
  • 6 Personal life
  • 7 Awards and honors
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links
Early life and education

Tulsi Gabbard was born on April 12, 1981, in Leloaloa, American Samoa, the fourth of five children. Her father, Mike Gabbard, is of American Samoan descent; his Samoan family moved to the United States and he became a naturalized citizen at age one. Her mother, Carol (Porter) Gabbard, was born in Decatur, Indiana. In 1983, when Gabbard was two years old, her family moved to Hawaii.[8]

Gabbard has spoken about growing up as a mixed-race girl in a multicultural and multireligious household: her father is of Samoan and European ancestry and an active lector at his Catholic church, but also enjoys practicing mantra meditation, including kirtan. Her mother is of European descent and a practicing Hindu. Tulsi embraced Hinduism as a teenager.[9][10][11]

Gabbard was home-schooled through high school except for two years at a girls-only missionary academy in the Philippines.[12] She graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 2009.[13][14][15]

She returned from a deployment to Iraq in 2006 and worked for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, then volunteered for another deployment to the Middle East in 2009. After returning to Hawaii, she was elected to the Honolulu City Council, where she served from 2011 to 2012. In 2012, she ran for the open 2nd Congressional District seat and won the primary with 55% of the vote in an upset over former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann. She won the general election with 81% of the vote. In the House of Representatives, Gabbard serves on the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. She is also a military police officer with the Hawaii Army National Guard.

Political career Main article: Electoral history of Tulsi Gabbard Hawaii House of Representatives (2002–2004) Elections

In 2002, after redistricting, Gabbard (as Gabbard 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 (30%), Dolfo Ramos (18%), and Gerald Vidal (4%).[16] Gabbard then defeated Republican Alfonso Jimenez in the general election, 65%–35%.[17]

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.[18] Gabbard chose not to campaign for a second term,[19] and Cabanilla won the Democratic primary, 64%–25%.[20]


In 2002, at the age of 21, Gabbard had become the youngest legislator ever elected in Hawaii's history and the youngest woman elected to state office in the nation.[6][21] She represented the Oahu 42nd District, which covers Waipahu, Honolulu, and Ewa Beach.

She played a key role, along with her Ewa colleagues, in securing funding for infrastructure on the Ewa Plains.[15]

During her tenure Gabbard strongly supported legislation to promote clean energy. She supported legislation to expand tax credits for solar and wind, improve the net energy metering program, establish renewable energy portfolio standards, reduce taxes on the sale of ethanol and biofuels, provide funding for a seawater air conditioning project and make it easier for condo/townhouse owners to get solar.[22]

Regarding the environment, Gabbard supported legislation to better protect air quality, the water supply, endangered species and avian/marine life, fight invasive species, reduce greenhouse gases, promote recycling of food waste & packaging, improve the Deposit Beverage Container Program (bottle law), and reduce illegal dumping.[22]

As a state representative, Gabbard opposed LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage and civil unions. But she subsequently opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, arguing that "marriage is a bond of love, and it's spiritual and metaphysical in nature. It's a sacred bond, and that is not an area where government should be involved."[23][24]

Honolulu City Council (2011–2012) Elections

After returning home from her second deployment to the Middle East in 2009, Gabbard ran for a seat on the Honolulu City Council.[25] 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.[26] In the November 2 runoff election, she defeated Sesnita Moepono, 58%–42%, to win the seat.[27]


As a councilmember, Gabbard introduced a measure to help food truck vendors by loosening parking restrictions.[28] She also introduced Bill 54, a measure that authorized city workers to confiscate personal belongings stored on public property.[29][30] After overcoming opposition from the ACLU[31] and Occupy Hawai'i,[32] and a potential conflict with Hawaii's constitutional law, Kānāwai Māmalahoe, which protects "those who sleep by the roadside", Bill 54 passed[32] 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.[33] She resigned from the council on August 16, 2012, to focus on her congressional campaign.[34]

United States House of Representatives (2013–present) Elections
Gabbard in January 2012 Main article: United States House of Representatives elections in Hawaii, 2012 § District 2

In early 2011, Mazie Hirono, the incumbent Congresswoman in Hawaii's second congressional district, announced that she would run for a U.S. Senate seat. Soon after that, in May 2011, Gabbard announced her candidacy for the House seat.[35] She was endorsed by the Sierra Club,[36] Emily's List,[37] and VoteVets.org.[38] Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann was the best-known candidate in the six-way primary, but Gabbard won in a major upset, taking 55% of the vote. Hannemann finished second, with 34%. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser described her win as an "improbable rise from a distant underdog to victory".[39] Gabbard resigned from the City Council on August 16 to prevent the cost of a separate special election.[40][41]

As the Democratic nominee, Gabbard traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina and spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.[42] There she credited grassroots support as the reason for her come-from-behind win in the primary.[43] Gabbard won the general election on November 6, 2012, defeating Republican Kawika Crowley 81% to 19%.[44]

See also: United States House of Representatives elections in Hawaii, 2014 § District 2

In December 2012, Gabbard applied to be considered for appointment to the Senate seat vacated by the death of Daniel Inouye,[45] but despite support from prominent mainland Democrats,[46][47] she was not among the three candidates selected by the Hawaii Democratic party.[48]

Gabbard won reelection to the House on November 4, 2014, defeating Crowley again, 78.7% to 18.6%.


Gabbard was reelected to the House in 2016, defeating her opponent, Angela Kaaihue, by 140,000 votes (81.2%-18.8%).[49]

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

In her first term, Gabbard introduced the Helping Heroes Fly Act, which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. This measure seeks to improve airport security screenings for severely wounded veterans, and was signed into law by the president.[50][51][52] She also led an effort to pass legislation to assist victims of military sexual trauma.[53][54][55]


Along with Senator Hirono, Gabbard introduced the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 to award Filipino and Filipino American veterans who fought in World War II the Congressional Gold Medal.[56] The bill passed both the Senate and the House, in July and November 2016, respectively,[57] and was signed by President Obama on December 15, 2016.[58]

Gabbard also introduced Talia's Law, to prevent child abuse and neglect on military bases. It passed the House and Senate and was signed by President Obama on December 23, 2016.[59][60][61]


In the first session of the 115th Congress on January 4, 2017, Gabbard introduced bill H.R. 258 to prohibit the use of United States Government funds to provide assistance to Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to countries supporting those organizations directly or indirectly.[62][63][64] Announcing the legislation, she said: "If you or I gave money, weapons or support to al-Qaeda or ISIS, we would be thrown in jail. Yet the U.S. government has been violating this law for years, quietly supporting allies and partners of al-Qaeda, ISIL ... and other terrorist groups with money, weapons and intelligence support, in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government."[65]

Committee assignments
  • Committee on Armed Services
    • Subcommittee on Readiness
    • Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
  • Committee on Foreign Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
    • Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
Caucus membership
  • Congressional Progressive Caucus[66]
  • Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus[67]
  • Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus[68]
  • Medicare For All Caucus [69][70]
Democratic National Committee

Gabbard, a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, was critical of the decision by DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to hold only six debates during the 2016 Democratic Party primary season, compared with 26 in 2008 and 15 in 2004.[71][72] Some have argued that the number of debates was intentionally limited in order to bolster Secretary Hillary Clinton's position as the Democratic front-runner, citing Wasserman Schultz's previous position as co-chair of Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign as a conflict of interest and a newly created penalty barring further participation in sanctioned debates for any candidate who participates in an unsanctioned debate as an effort to limit public exposure to other candidates.[72][73] Gabbard appeared on multiple news outlets to express her dissatisfaction with the number of debates. Following her public criticisms, she claimed she was uninvited from attending the Democratic debate in Las Vegas as a result. In a telephone interview with The New York Times, Gabbard stated, "It's very dangerous when we have people in positions of leadership who use their power to try to quiet those who disagree with them. When I signed up to be vice-chair of the DNC, no one told me I would be relinquishing my freedom of speech and checking it at the door."[74]

Gabbard resigned as DNC vice-chair on February 28, 2016, in order to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.[75] She was the first female U.S. Representative to endorse Sanders.[76] At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Gabbard gave the nominating speech putting his name forward.[77] Furthermore, in July 2016, Gabbard launched a petition to end the Democratic Party's process of appointing superdelegates in the nomination process.[78] She endorsed Keith Ellison for DNC chair in the DNC 2017 chairmanship elections.[79]

Syria trip and ethics controversy

In January 2017, Gabbard met with President Bashar al-Assad during a secret trip to Syria.[80][81] Gabbard said in a release that the trip was approved by the House Ethics Committee and sponsored by Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS-Ohio).[82] The chairman of AACCESS, Bassem Khawam, accompanied Gabbard on the trip, as did Elie Khawam. Both men are officials in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP),[83] which has fought on the side of Assad regime, but Bassem Khawam has denied that AACCESS is connected to the SSNP.[84]

Gabbard "reportedly declined to inform House leadership in advance, met with Bashar al-Assad, toured with officials from a Lebanese political party that actively supports Assad, and received funding from an American organization that counts one of those same officials as its executive director."[85] She later paid for the trip with her own money.[86] On February 7, 2017, it was reported that Gabbard failed to comply with House ethics rules, as she had not filed the required disclosure forms by the deadline, but according to her office she complied with House ethics rules by filing her post-trip financial report by the deadline.[86][87] Remaining forms and her itinerary were submitted on February 8, 2017.[88]

2020 presidential campaign speculation

In 2016 New Yorker editor Amy Davidson and Boston Globe reporter James Pindell described Gabbard as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.[89][90]

Military service (2004–present) 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.[91]

In July 2004, Gabbard asked to deploy with her Hawaii Army National Guard unit, volunteering for a 12-month tour in Iraq, where she served in a field medical unit as a specialist with the 29th Support Battalion medical company.[92] She learned that she would not be able to serve with her unit and perform her duties as a legislator, and thus chose not to campaign for a second term in office.[19][93] Gabbard served at Logistical Support Area Anaconda in Iraq.[94] While on a rest-and-relaxation tour in August 2005, she presented Hawaii's condolences to the government of London regarding the 7 July 2005 London bombings.[92]

Upon her return from Iraq in 2006, Gabbard began serving as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka in Washington, DC.[95] She was responsible for issues involving veteran affairs, energy and natural resources, judiciary, and homeland security. She served as a surrogate speaker for Akaka on many occasions, and built a grassroots network with the veteran community in Hawaii.[citation needed]

In March 2007, while working for Akaka, Gabbard graduated from the Accelerated Officer Candidate School at the Alabama Military Academy.[96] She was the first woman to finish as the distinguished honor graduate in the Academy's 50-year history.[6][95] She was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned again to the 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the Hawaii Army National Guard, this time to serve as the Military Police Platoon Leader.[97]

Gabbard continued to work for Akaka until 2009, when she again voluntarily deployed with her unit to the Middle East.

In May 2010, Gabbard was one of thirty finalists for a White House Fellowship[98] and one of three finalists from Hawaii,[99] but was not selected as a fellow.[100]

In June 2011, Gabbard visited Indonesia[101] as part of a peacekeeping training with the Indonesian Army.[102]

On October 12, 2015, Captain Gabbard was promoted to major at a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Akaka administered the oath of office to the new major.[103][104] She continues to serve as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard.[105]

Non-profit organizations and associations

Gabbard co-founded Healthy Hawaiʻi Coalition, an environmental educational group of which she is vice president and educational programs coordinator.[36][106] She is a lifetime member of the National Guard Association of the United States and the Military Police Regimental Association.[citation needed]

Gabbard was also a cofounder of the non-profit Stand Up For America,[107] which she and her father co-founded in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.[108] SUFA's site profiled Gabbard[109] and hosted letters from her sent during her deployments overseas.[110][111] The Stand Up For America site came under criticism in September 2010 for promoting Gabbard's campaign for the Honolulu City Council. Gabbard said the improper addition "was an honest mistake from a volunteer", and the problematic page and link were immediately removed.[107]

Political positions Gabbard (Hawaii, District 2) speaking at a luncheon in February 2013. Economics Trans-Pacific Partnership

Gabbard strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and led protests against it.[112] A member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, she was highly critical of both the deal itself and the secrecy surrounding the negotiations, arguing that it would largely benefit multinational corporations at the expense of American workers while actively contributing to existing threats to the environment, such as global warming and pollution. Gabbard said, "The TPP agreement will benefit Wall Street banks and multinational corporations on the backs of hard-working Americans, and it will increase existing threats to our environment...If it contains the same noxious provisions we suspected it would, I will do all I can to defeat the TPP when it comes before Congress for a final up-or-down vote."[113]


Gabbard supports a strong US-India relationship. She has repeatedly praised Indian prime minister Narendra Modi,[114][115] describing him as "a person who cares deeply about these issues and as a leader whose example and dedication to the people he serves should be an inspiration to elected officials everywhere."[114] She has said that the U.S. decision to deny a visa to Modi over allegations of his involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots was a "great blunder", on the grounds that it could have undermined the US-India relationship had he used it as an excuse to reject a strong relationship with America.[114] She also criticized the arrest of Indian consular officer Devyani Khobragade on charges of visa fraud and perjury.[115] In 2013, she joined some of her colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee in opposing a resolution in the House of Representatives that called for "religious freedom and related human rights to be included in the United States-India Strategic Dialogue and for such issues to be raised directly with federal and state Indian government officials", saying it would weaken the friendship between India and US, citing the timing of the bill as interfering in India's elections, while emphasizing the need for US to stand for religious freedom.[116][114][117]


Gabbard voted in favor of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an international agreement with Iran which imposed restraints on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.[118]

Iraq and Afghanistan

Gabbard opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[119][better source needed] She believes that the United States' victory conditions in Iraq were not clearly defined.[120]


In October 2016, she criticized elements within the Pakistani government, saying, "People within the Pakistani government continue to provide tacit and overt support for terrorism. This is not new; this pattern of attacks has been occurring now for the past 15 years, and it must end. That's why I've continued working in Congress to cut back US assistance for Pakistan and increase pressure on Pakistan to stop this violence. In the past, the US government took steps to increase pressure on Pakistan, and it's time to revisit that approach." She expressed "solidarity with India in the face of these attacks" (referring to the 2016 Uri attack).[121]

Saudi Arabia

Gabbard was a notable opponent of a $1.15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and was quoted in The Hill as saying, "Saudi Arabia continues to spend billions of dollars funding the spread of the Wahhabi Salafist ideology that fuels groups like ISIS, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups around the world. The U.S. must stop arming Saudi Arabia, stop fueling this fire and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for their actions."[122][123]


Gabbard opposes the US removing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad from power.[124] She has cited US "regime-change" involvement in Syria as a source of the Syrian refugee crisis.[125]

In 2013 Gabbard opposed the Obama administration's proposed military strikes in Syria, arguing that intervention in Syria would go against America's national security, international credibility, economic interest, and moral center.[126] She later introduced legislation to block U.S. military action against the Assad regime.[127] She has described US involvement in the Syrian Civil War as "our counterproductive regime-change war", and said that it is this "regime-change war that is causing people to flee their country".[125]

Gabbard was one of three members of Congress to vote against House resolution 121, which condemned the government of Syria and "other parties to the conflict" for war crimes and crimes against humanity,"[128] saying that though Assad is a "brutal dictator," the resolution was "a War Bill—a thinly veiled attempt to use the rationale of 'humanitarianism' as a justification for overthrowing the Syrian government". She explained that the resolution "urges the administration to create 'additional mechanisms for the protection of civilians', which is coded language for the creation of a so-called no-fly/safe zone." Gabbard has rejected suggestions for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria, stating that it would cost "billions of dollars, require tens of thousands of ground troops and a massive U.S. air presence, and it won't work", and that such a move would risk confrontation with Russia.[129][130]

In November 2016 she met with United States president-elect Donald Trump to enlist his support to stop the United States' alleged "illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government".[131]

In January 2017, Gabbard made a secret "fact-finding" mission to Damascus and met with diverse civil society groups as well as government officials, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[132][133] In April 2017, after the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack killed at least 74 civilians and injured hundreds more, Gabbard called for a UN investigation into the attack and the prosecution of Bashar al-Assad in the International Criminal Court if he is found to be responsible.[134][135] After President Trump ordered the 2017 Shayrat missile strike targeting the Syrian airfield believed to be the source of the attack, Gabbard called the strike r