Hawaii Rep. and DNC vice chair Tulsi Gabbard resigned from her post on Sunday in order to throw her support behind Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Gabbard, one of the first two female combat veterans to ever serve in Congress, stressed the importance of a leader with a “military mindset,” which she described as a candidate who knows “importantly, when we don’t use [U.S.] military power.” She pointed to Sanders, a Vermont Independent, as the White House hopeful with that knowledge.
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, is competing with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination to run for president on Nov. 8. Critics have said the scheduling of the debates has favored Clinton, who is better known than Sanders and is favored to win the nominating contest. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement praising Gabbard for her military service.
“As a veteran and as a soldier, I’ve seen first-hand the very high human cost of that war,” said Gabbard, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East. “I think it’s most important for us, as we look at our choices as to who our next commander-in-chief will be to recognize the necessity to have a commander-in-chief who has foresight, who exercises good judgement.”
Gabbard’s announcement is not the first time she has split with the DNC. She was previously disinvited from the first Democratic presidential debate in Nevada after she publicly called out for more debates. Gabbard’s endorsement of Sanders comes just a day after Hillary Clinton notched a big victory in South Carolina’s primary Saturday night.
According to an email obtained by Politico, Gabbard told her fellow DNC officers that “after much thought and consideration, I’ve decided I cannot remain neutral and sit on the sidelines any longer.” Over the course of the campaign, Sanders and his supporters have accused the DNC of having a pro-Hillary Clinton—pro-establishment—bias.
Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz served as one of Clinton’s national campaign co-chairs in 2008. Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a military veteran who served in Iraq, also has been critical of President Obama’s strategy for stopping the Islamic State. She has called for a more comprehensive approach and has criticized the president for not saying the group is engaged in “Islamic terrorism.”