By Lalit K Jha
(Eds: Updating with fresh inputs)
Washington, Jan 12 (PTI) Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to US Congress and a four-time Democratic lawmaker, has said she will run for President in 2020, becoming the latest member of her party to challenge Republican President Donald Trump.
Gabbard, 37, said she will formally announce her candidacy within a week. The Iraq War veteran is the second woman after Senator Elizabeth Warren to enter the presidential race from the Democratic party.
More than 12 Democratic leaders including Indian-origin Senator from California Kamala Harris are expected to announce their White House bid to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.
Gabbard, a four-time Democratic lawmaker in the US House of Representatives from Hawaii, told CNN Friday: "I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week".
"There are many reasons I'm offering to serve you as President — to ensure every American gets the healthcare they need, to bring about comprehensive immigration reform, to make sure we have clean water and clean air for generations to come, to fix our broken criminal justice system, to end the corrupt influence of special interests in Washington, and so much more.
"But the main reason I'm running has to do with an issue that is central to the rest — war and peace. I look forward to talking with you more about this in the coming days. When we stand together, united by our love for each other and for our country, there is no challenge we cannot overcome," she wrote in an email sent to her supporters.
In her first tweet after the announcement, Gabbard urged her fellow countrymen to join her campaign.
"When we stand together, united by our love for each other and for our country, there is no challenge we cannot overcome. Will you join me?" she asked on Twitter.
"The First Woman President of the US is ready to take the challenge," said her campaign's Twitter handle.
Born in the US territory of American Samoa, Gabbard has become the first-ever Hindu to run for the presidency in the US.
Gabbard, who converted to Hinduism early in her life, is highly popular among Indian-Americans.
If elected, she would be the youngest-ever and first woman President of the United States. She would also be the first non-Christian and first Hindu to occupy the top post. However, American political pundits do not give her much chance at this point.
Hindus constitute less than one per cent of the American population, an overwhelming majority of whom are either from India or are people of Indian-origin.
Gabbard, a co-Chair of the powerful House India Caucus, was recently re-elected for the US House of Representatives from Hawaii for the fourth consecutive term.
Her father Mike Gabbard, a Hawaii State Senator, told the local Hawaii News Now: "I didn't know she had made a final decision. She has so much aloha for the people. She'll make a great president!".
A winner of the primary elections beginning early 2020 would be finally nominated by the Democratic party in its convention later that summer to challenge the Republican candidate in the November 2020 elections.
President Trump has announced to seek his re-election. The winner of the Democratic primary would be pitted against him.
Gabbard, who supported Senator Bernie Sanders against former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary, told the CNN that there were a lot of reasons for her to take that decision.
"There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I'm concerned about and that I want to help solve," she said.
She listed access to health care, criminal justice reform and climate change as key issues.
In 2010, she returned to office as a member of the Hawaii City Council. Gabbard comes from a multicultural, multi-religious family and is a practising Hindu.
Former US vice president Joe Biden has also expressed his interest in the 2020 bid.
Rania Batrice, who was a deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and is now a top aide to Gabbard, will be her campaign manager, CNN reported.
The 2020 presidential primary cycle is scheduled to kick off from the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020, followed by the New Hampshire Primary on February 11, Nevada caucus of February 15 and South Carolina on February 22.
Among other Democrats speculated to run for the 2020 primaries include Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Tim Kaine. PTI LKJ CPS MRJ AKJ MRJ