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Testing the waters in New Hampshire, Tulsi Gabbard ‘seriously thinking’ about presidential bid

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Video by Paul Steinhauser / Special to Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii dips her toe into the Democratic Presidential Primary race with a visit to New Hampshire this past weekend.
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PAUL STEINHAUSER / Special to the Star-Advertiser

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard speaks at a meeting at the Rockingham County Democrats headquarters in Exeter, N.H. The Hawaii Democrat is visiting the state as she considers a run for the Democratic nomination for president.

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PAUL STEINHAUSER / Special to the Star-Advertiser

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard speaks at a meeting at the Rockingham County Democrats headquarters in Exeter, N.H. The Hawaii Democrat is visiting the state as she considers a run for the Democratic nomination for president.

EXETER, N.H. >> Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard made multiple stops this weekend in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House — sparking further speculation that she’s considering a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I’m seriously thinking of how I can best be of service to our country,” Gabbard said in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today, as she arrived for a meet and greet with party activists packed into the Rockingham County Democrats headquarters in Exeter.

But the progressive lawmaker, who was just re-elected to a fourth term representing Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, said “no” when asked if she had any timetable for deciding on a White House bid.

And Gabbard, who was a strong supporter of independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont’s 2016 run for the Democratic nomination, demurred on whether a potential Sanders 2020 bid would influence her decision.

“I think you’ll have to ask him about what his plans are,” she said. “I’m thinking through how I can best be of service to our country.”

Before arriving in New Hampshire, Gabbard was with Sanders in Vermont, where she took part progressive ideas forum hosted by the Sanders Institute, which was founded by his wife Jane O’Meara Sanders.

Gabbard headed next to Concord, where she spoke on Saturday evening at a forum sponsored by the progressive group Rights and Democracy NH. She also met with members of the New Hampshire Young Democrats this morning in Manchester. The trip was her second to the Granite State this autumn.

In Exeter, Gabbard delivered a short speech spotlighting the power of love in politics, preaching that there is “no force more powerful than love.”

“When we start from this foundation of love, inspired by this love, then we can truly have that strength and that power to be able to take on the tough challenges that are before us,” she added. “This is how we come together as people and draw from love that strength and that courage and that fearlessness that we need to take on those forces and those obstacles that seem insurmountable, that can see too great to overcome.”

And Gabbard indirectly targeted President Donald Trump, sharing that “it is painful and disheartening to me to see the direction of our country today. To see how much divisiveness and hatred is being fomented by those who wish to tear us apart.”

Gabbard, 37, is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party.

The major in the Hawaii Army National Guard who served two tours of duty in the Middle East has become an outspoken critic of some U.S. military actions around the globe.

During a nearly hour-long question-and-answer session with the crowd that followed her speech, Gabbard said, “Since 9/11 alone, we have spent trillions of your taxpayer dollars to pay for these regime change wars, these unnecessary wars of choice that have been counterproductive in every single way, making it so that we don’t have those resources to address the very real and urgent and pressing needs of the people of our communities right at home.”

She also highlighted her strong support for the “Medicare for all” bill in the House of Representatives and for her efforts to get big money out of politics.

“Ending Citizens United continues to be an issue and now the Democrats are in the majority in the House, we have an opportunity to put forward legislation we’ve never been able to bring to the House floor before to address that,” she explained as she looked to January, when the Democrats will take the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years.

Gabbard is the daughter of Democratic state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who as a Republican two-decades ago spoke out against gay rights while running for Congress. She was asked about her previous stances as a social conservative who opposed abortion rights and same sex marriage.

Gabbard said she “held views growing up that I no longer hold.”

She explained that numerous life experiences, including her military service and tours of duty in the Middle East, “caused me to really deeply reflect and be introspective on the values and beliefs that I had grown up with.”

“It was a process that I went through that changed my views in many ways, and many big ways, to the views that I hold today,” she added. “And for those critics, I ask them to look at my record. I’ve served in Congress now for six years and have a strong record which reflects what I’ve just shared.”

Gabbard seemed to make an impression with many of the activists that attended the meet and greet. Rockingham Democrats chairman Larry Drake said if Gabbard does decide to launch a presidential campaign, she’ll definitely resonate “among certain folks.”

Gabbard’s stop in Exeter was a family affair. She was accompanied by her husband Abraham Williams, who recorded the entire event with a camera.

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