POLITICS
01/11/2019 18:42 EST | Updated 01/11/2019 21:03 EST

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Says She Will Run For President In 2020

The Hawaii combat veteran says she will make an official announcement next week as she enters what's likely to be a crowded Democratic field.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has settled speculation about her political ambitions with her announcement that she’ll run for president in the 2020 election.

“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” Gabbard told CNN’s Van Jones during an interview scheduled to air at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Hawaii Democrat said there were “a lot of reasons” behind her decision to run and named some of the top issues that would be on her campaign platform, including health care, criminal justice reform and climate change.

“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” Gabbard told Jones.

Gabbard’s declaration follows a Dec. 12 appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” in which she said she was “seriously considering” a presidential run.  

“I’m concerned about the direction of the country,” Gabbard told host Chris Matthews.

Gabbard, 37, enters what’s likely to be a crowded Democratic field. She could find herself competing against the likes of such heavy hitters as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden for the party’s nomination.

Gabbard became the first Hindu member of Congress when she was elected to the U.S. House in 2012. She also was one of the first female combat veterans elected to Congress ― deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009 as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard. 

Though considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, Gabbard has displayed an unorthodox approach to progressive leadership.

The congresswoman recently found herself publicly sparring with a fellow Hawaii Democrat, Sen. Mazie Hirono, over lawmakers’ questioning of judicial nominee Brian Buescher. Gabbard accused Hirono and other Democrats of discriminating against Buescher’s Catholic faith in their line of questioning. Hirono suggested Gabbard was aligning herself with conservatives.

But asked whether Gabbard’s rebuke would affect their relationship, Hirono told Hawaii News Now she “works well” with “Republicans” and said she would “certainly” welcome opportunities to work with Gabbard.

Gabbard’s spat with Hirono is just the latest incidence of her alienation from establishment Democrats.

Gabbard threw her support behind Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign ― an endorsement that led her to publicly resign from her role as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Gabbard positioned herself as one of President Barack Obama’s fiercest critics over his handling of the so-called Islamic State. She has made no secret of her controversial views on the Middle East and Islam, and criticized Obama for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islam” to discuss jihadist groups. She opposes admitting Syrian refugees to the United States.

She drew criticism in 2017 for meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of war crimes for massacring, torturing and starving civilians.

Gabbard also met with Donald Trump after the election in November 2016 to discuss Syria and terrorism policy. Though Gabbard has been aligned with Trump over some aspects of Middle East policy ― including whether the U.S. should provide support for Syrian militias fighting Assad ― she recently called Trump “Saudi Arabia’s bitch” for his failure to react to the Saudi killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens dismissed Gabbard’s chances in a statement on Friday.

“Tulsi Gabbard has an even bigger problem than her lack of experience ― it’s that she has no base of support,” Ahrens said. “Liberals think she’s too conservative, conservatives think she’s too liberal, and just about everyone thinks her coziness with Bashar al-Assad is disturbing.”