Gabbard is not of Indian descent but comes from a Hindu family in Hawaii and took her oath office on the Bhagavad Gita when she was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2011 and after her three re-elections.
"I have made a decision to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week", Gabbard said. Senator Elizabeth Warren of MA has already formed an exploratory committee and is moving quickly with trips across early primary states.
More recently, Gabbard stirred controversy among fellow Democrats when she issued a statement accusing some of them of "religious bigotry" for questioning whether a judicial nominee's membership in a Catholic fraternal organization would affect his ability to apply the law.
Gabbard has recanted those views, telling voters at an early December meeting in New Hampshire that she had changed after her service in Iraq.
Gabbard joins an increasingly crowded field of Democrats vying to be president.
"I stepped down from the legislature where I served, and headed to a war zone", Gabbard recalled at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. She ended up being a backer of Sen. In response, Gabbard wrote on Twitter that "being Saudi Arabia's bitch is not 'America First'".
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An article in The Intercept last week led to a debate after it described Gabbard as "a polarising figure" whose "progressive domestic politics are at odds with her support for authoritarians overseas, including [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi, [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] Sisi, and Syria's Bashar al-Assad". Gabbard remains popular with some liberals but will have serious competition with other candidates on the left flank of the party.
"I think that after seeing [Gabbard's] continued lack of fighting for human and civil rights, that this was - for our members across the state - enough was enough", he said.
Rep. Gabbard is a Democrat and represents the 2nd Congressional District in Hawaiʻi, which includes the Big Island.
Gabbard was deployed to Iraq in 2005, and she maintains her role as a member of the Hawaii National Guard.