Sen. Mazie Hirono signals she will not endorse fellow Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard in her bid for president

  • Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is running for president in 2020.
  • As of Monday, it seems Gabbard will be running without the endorsement of her fellow Hawaii Democrat Sen. Mazie Hirono.
  • Hirono in an interview with MSNBC said she’d be looking to endorse someone “who has a long record of supporting progressive goals.”
  • Gabbard is already coming under fire for her stances and past statements on several topics including foreign policy and LGBTQ rights.

Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono on Monday signalled she’ll not be backing fellow Hawaii Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in her bid for president.

This seems to be motivated by some of the criticism surrounding Gabbard’s stances and rhetoric on issues like foreign policy and LGBTQ rights, which have at times put her at odds with the political left.

Hirono in an interview with MSNBC said she’d be looking to endorse someone “who has a long record of supporting progressive goals.”

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“I certainly wish all of our candidates the best because it is going to be a long, hard race, and so I wish everyone well, but for myself in these times of what I would call not normal times, I want someone who has very much been on the page in terms of supporting equal opportunity, choice, all of the kinds of issues that I’ve been fighting for for decades,” Hirono added. “I wish her well, though, as I do all of the other candidates.”

Gabbard’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from INSIDER.

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Gabbard, Hirono, and the Knights of Columbus

Gabbard and Hirono have butted heads recently, shocking some of their Democratic colleagues given the traditionally strong relations between fellow Hawaii politicians.

In a recent op-ed for The Hill, Gabbard said fellow Democrats had “weaponised religion for their own selfish gain.”

“For too long in our country, politicians have weaponised religion for their own selfish gain, fomenting bigotry, fears and suspicions based on the faith, religion or spiritual practices of their political opponents,” Gabbard wrote.

Hirono was not explicitly mentioned, but the piece was viewed by some as a veiled critique of the Hawaii senator over questions she’s asked US District Court nominee Brian Buescher of Nebraska.

The Hawaii senator, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Buescher whether his membership of the Catholic organisation Knights of Columbus might affect his ability to be impartial as a judge on issues such as abortion and reproductive rights.

Gabbard apparently took issue with this and in her op-ed said, “While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the US District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus.”

“Over the past two years, the Senator has been attacked by right wing ideologues for her examination of Donald Trump’s ideologically-driven nominees to the courts,” Hirono’s spokesman said in a statement following the o-ped. “It is unfortunate that Congresswoman Gabbard based her misguided opinion on the far-right wing manipulation of these straightforward questions.”

‘I think there are others who don’t raise the kind of concerns… that she does’

When asked about Gabbard’s presidential ambitions on Monday, Hirono told INSIDER, “It’s a free country. I wish everybody well.”

In an apparent reference to Gabbard’s op-ed on Buescher and the Knights of Columbus, the senator then added, “I think that she should have called me before she accused me of being a religious… bigot.”

Hirono went on to say she’s “not endorsing anybody” in the 2020 race just yet.

“But I’m certainly going to look for a candidate who has fought for the kind of progressive programs and values that I’ve fought for for decades,” she added. When asked whether she thought Gabbard qualified in this regard, Hirono said, “I think there are others who don’t raise the kind of concerns along those lines that she does. But I wish her well.”

Gabbard has a lot of fans among progressives, but also many critics

Gabbard made her presidential ambitions public late last week.

The Hawaii congresswoman is a paradoxical figure for progressives.

She gained popularity among many on the left in 2016 when she resigned as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. Gabbard was later endorsed by the Sanders-linked grassroots political organisation Our Revolution in her 2018 reelection bid, which seemed to be payback for her support in the 2016 election.

But Gabbard has also angered cohorts of progressives at times, such as when she made accused war criminal Syrian Bashar al-Assad in early 2017. Later that year, she expressed scepticism Assad used chemical weapons against civilians, sparking outrage across partisan lines.

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Gabbard has also been accused of homophobia, and on Monday apologised for touting past work she did for an anti-gay group that condoned conversion therapy.

“I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said,” Gabbard said in a statement. “I’m grateful for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey.”

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