WASHINGTON — You might think U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had a stiff Republican challenge in the upcoming general election given the way she’s spending her campaign money.

But the Hawaii congresswoman doesn’t seem to be focusing much on her actual re-election campaign. Instead, she seems intent on increasing her national profile. Politico, a national news website, has reported she is considering running for president.

So far this election cycle the Hawaii congresswoman reported spending nearly $1.3 million despite the fact she’s all but assured a victory in the general election.

Her opponent for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District is Brian Evans, a Las Vegas crooner with a Maui residence, who ran as a Democrat in the primary for U.S. Senate in 2014. Evans has done little to actively campaign against Gabbard, and has not reported spending any money on the race.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard speaks during the 2018 Hawaii Democratic Convention held at the Hilton Waikaloa in Kona, Hawaii.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is considering a run for president, according to a national media report. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gabbard’s latest quarterly filing to the Federal Election Commission shows she spent more than $255,000 from July 23 to Sept. 30, more than any previous quarter in the current election cycle.

The congresswoman’s campaign did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment. Gabbard has not yet agreed to participate in any pre-election interviews with Civil Beat.

According to her FEC filings, she spent money traveling to Iowa, where any politician serious about a presidential campaign has to establish a presence because of the state’s early caucuses. Gabbard has been to Iowa at least twice this year, in September and in October.

The congresswoman continues to pump money into online advertising and has paid thousands of dollars to Revolution Messaging, a progressive digital consulting firm that made its name during U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run.

Other national consultants hired by the Gabbard campaign include Joe Trippi & Associates, which worked on U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’ campaign in Alabama, and Batrice & Associates, which is led by Rania Batrice, a former deputy campaign manager for Sanders.

Congressional records also listed Batrice as a part-time employee in Gabbard’s office in the fall of 2016, a position she held for less than four months and that paid her just over $4,000.

Locally, the FEC reports show Gabbard continues to pay Erika Tsuji to help manage her campaign. The records also show several payments to Carin Enovijas of Maui for travel and “grassroots coordination consulting.”

Enovijas, a retired journalist, wrote a letter to the editor of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in May praising Gabbard for her efforts to bring supplies to parts of Kauai and the Big Island that were devastated by flooding and a volcanic eruption, respectively.

She also pointed to Gabbard’s close relationship with Samaritan’s Purse, a religious organization that delivered supplies to Kauai after the floods. The organization is run by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, the famous evangelical Christian who died in February.

A press release from Samaritan’s Purse said Gabbard met the organization’s DC-8 aircraft on arrival along with Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

Gabbard’s  contributions in the latest report continued the trend of mostly being small donations from across the country.

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