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Democratic Hawaii Rep. Gabbard running for president in 2020

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Tulsi Gabbard

"I have chose to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week", Gabbard, a liberal 37-year-old Iraq War veteran as well as the first Hindu and first Samoan-American elected to the US Congress, told CNN.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of MA, who announced her plans to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency last month, is moving quickly with trips across early primary states. A formal announcement of her candidacy will follow in the coming weeks, Gabbard said in comments released by CNN on Friday evening.

"But the main reason I'm running has to do with an issue that is central to the rest - war and peace".

Her endorsement came in dramatic fashion, with her resigning as a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to express her support.

The 37-year-old Iraq War veteran is the first Hindu elected to Congress.

Gabbard was one of the most prominent lawmakers to back Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.

"I stepped down from the legislature where I served, and headed to a war zone", Gabbard recalled at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Being a fourth-term congresswoman from a small state (and a religious minority to boot) may prove limiting to Gabbard's presidential ambitions. "When we stand together, united by our love for each other and for our country, there is no challenge we can not overcome", she wrote in an email sent to her supporters. She's opposed to military intervention, and drew criticism in 2017 for meeting during a secret trip with Syrian President Bashar Assad whose oppressive regime has allegedly used chemical weapons on its own people.

She questioned whether Assad was responsible for a chemical attack on civilians that killed dozens and led the United States to attack a Syrian air base.

The congresswoman then endorsed Sanders for president, becoming one of the few members of Congress to do so. Though Gabbard has been aligned with Trump over some aspects of Middle East policy ― including whether the USA 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.

Indian Americans have been keenly following both Gabbard and Harris in anticipation of their run for the White House with mixed feelings: Gabbard is a white American but as a practicing Hindu is an icon among Hindu Americans.

She listed access to health care, criminal justice reform and climate change as key issues.

Former US vice president Joe Biden has also expressed his interest in the 2020 bid.

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