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WASHINGTON — Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has a busy weekend with pit stops planned in Vermont and New Hampshire, where she’s expected to pump up her progressive bonafides and put out her 2020 presidential feelers.
Gabbard’s first stop-over is in Burlington, Vermont, where she’ll take part in a three-day gathering of like-minded progressives and Hollywood stars, from Sen. Bernie Sanders and Cornel West to Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon.
The event is hosted by the Sanders Institute, which was founded by the Vermont senator’s wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, as a nonprofit think tank meant to push progressive ideals, such as Medicare for all and the elimination of college debt, deeper into the mainstream.
Gabbard, who quit the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to endorse Sanders for president, is a founding member of the institute.
On Sunday, Gabbard will travel to New Hampshire, where she’ll participate in a Rockingham County Democratic Party meet-and-greet for presidential hopefuls.
Larry Drake, chair of that county’s Democratic committee, said New Hampshire is the starting place for any candidate serious about making a run at the nation’s highest office.
He said he’s looking forward to hearing what Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who was the first Hindu elected to Congress, has to say to voters who will decide the first primary of the 2020 presidential season.
“She’s not your usual white male, boring politician, so I think a lot of people are curious,” Drake said.
Gabbard, who tends to avoid the local media, did not respond to Civil Beat’s requests for comment.
The congresswoman’s East Coast sojourn comes as speculation mounts over her plans to run for president. Gabbard has boosted her national profile in recent years as an outspoken opponent of U.S. military adventurism and critic of national Democratic Party politics.
She’s traveled to North Dakota to protest against an oil pipeline and to Flint, Michigan, to raise awareness about that city’s water crisis. Along the way she’s made appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which are stomping grounds for any presidential hopeful.
Another indication Gabbard is aiming higher is her upcoming book, “Is Today the Day? Not Another Political Memoir,” that comes out next year.
Politicians often pen books to promote their ideas and develop their image in advance of the heightened scrutiny that comes with presidential candidacy. In recent years it’s almost become a prerequisite, from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to Sanders and Kamala Harris.
At the Sanders Institute Gathering, Gabbard is scheduled to talk about civil rights, immigration and human dignity. The other panelists include the actress Sarandon, the former president and CEO of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, and Arab American Institute founder James Zogby.
Radhika Balakrishnan, a professor of gender and women’s studies at Rutgers University, will also participate on the panel. Balakrishnan is a member of the United Nations Development Program’s Civil Society Advisory Committee.
For Gabbard, the panel discussion comes amid her outspoken calls to end U.S. support of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and criticisms of her own record.
Gabbard grabbed national headlines last week when she described President Donald Trump as “Saudi Arabia’s bitch” in a tweet critical of his support of the country’s leaders despite mounting evidence they were behind the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard who served two tours of duty in the Middle East, has described herself as a leading congressional advocate for peace.
During the 2018 midterms, however, the Hawaii State Teachers Association blasted the congresswoman for secretly traveling to Syria to meet with President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people.
The union — which endorsed Gabbard’s opponent in the primary — also criticized Gabbard for voting with Republicans on a measure that would have made it harder for Syrian refugees to come to the U.S.
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