As she looks out from the pages of the just-released July issue of Vogue magazine, the present looks golden for Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii’s freshest member of Congress.
But there are signs of a surprising shake-up in her cabinet.
Amy Asselbaye, Gabbard’s chief of staff, is leaving, and Gabbard’s deputy chief of staff Jennifer Goedke has already left the office in June.
After inquires from Civil Beat, Gabbard issued a statement saying that Asselbaye had helped her pass her first piece of legislation, the Helping Heroes Fly Act, as well as standing up on sexual assault in the military and eliminating the VA backlog.
Asselbaye said in a joint statement that Gabbard has “already proven herself to be an effective leader.”
Deputy chief of staff Goedke left the office earlier this month, according to people close to Gabbard’s office to whom Civil Beat granted anonymity to allow them to avoid damaging their relations.
Goedke did not return an email seeking comment. Other staff at Gabbard’s offices in Washington, D.C., and in Honolulu also declined to comment, and Gabbard did not return a call from Civil Beat on Tuesday.
The circumstances surrounding the departure of Gabbard’s top aides were not immediately known. Were they fired? Did they quit? Is this a sign of disarray or is the congresswoman aiming for an upgrade? That all remains to be seen.
But the departures, as described by sources, may be the first clouds over Gabbard’s remarkably sunny ascent. Just one year ago, she was a new member of the Honolulu City Council.
Hand-picked by Democratic leaders to speak at the National Democratic Convention, due in no small part to her military service in the Middle East with the National Guard, the photogenic Gabbard was quickly identified as a politician to watch.
She was named vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Her profile has continued to rise since taking office in January, and she has become a frequent guest on the national political talk show circuit. Just last weekend, George Stephanopoulos interviewed her on ABC’s This Week’s “Sunday Spotlight”.
And then there is Vogue. The magazine’s profile gushes about Gabbard, describing her as “a tanned 32-year-old with mahogany-brown hair that falls just past her shoulders, a fit surfer’s physique, and a smile so warm that it’s no surprise Web sites have offered polls rating her ‘hotness.'” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi describes Gabbard in the Voguearticle as “an emerging star.”
Despite the shakeup in her office, Gabbard’s campaign emailed supporters on Tuesday to call attention to the Vogue article, and asked for campaign contributions before the June 30 deadline.
“The article says, ‘Washington has never seen anyone quite like Representative Tulsi Gabbard.’ Isn’t that the truth!” wrote Erika Tsuji, Gabbard’s finance director.
During her time in office, Gabbard has pushed a number of issues and she has notably criticized the military’s inadequate response to sexual assaults in its ranks. It is unclear what effect the loss of senior staff could have on Gabbard’s effectiveness.
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