Democratic hopeful Tulsi Gabbard preaches unity, leadership in Colorado Springs


Colorado Springs | Rep. Tulsi Gabbard took the stage at the Beckett Event Center on Wednesday night as her opponents in seeking the Democratic nomination for president prepared to take a national stage for a debate in Nevada.

The congresswoman from Hawaii did not qualify for the Las Vegas debate. If she was disappointed, however, it didn’t show because Gabbard dismissed the event as a political reality television show and spoke of attempts to unify — rather than divide — the country.

“I’m here to help us all remember that, as we’ve seen throughout our country’s history, we are the ones who can bridge that divide,” Gabbard said.

Her base in Colorado Springs also dismissed her absence in the debate and remained optimistic at her chances of earning the Democratic nomination, despite her recent poll numbers and fundraising reports. Local Democrats added that Gabbard’s very appearance is a good sign for the city.

Elvis Martinez was more concerned about the weather on the roads than the polls as he drove from Pueblo to hear Gabbard speak.

“She’s young, smart and a veteran,” Martinez said. “It’s about damn time that we have a woman in the White House with a head on her shoulders and no extra baggage.”

So far Gabbard is the first Democratic candidate to visit southern Colorado, Martinez noted, and her presence goes a long way toward his support for the representative in the primary.

“Leaning toward,” he said. “But I still have my ballot on the coffee table.”

Gabbard took the stage late, apologizing to the crowded room in the city’s southeast side for her delay.

During the town hall, Gabbard spoke out against regime-change conflicts sparked by the United States and described the factors she would consider before sending the country’s armed forces to fight.

“One, does this serve our country’s national security interest?” she said. “And is it a clear, achievable objective?”

The conflict in Afghanistan, for example, is murky and no clarity exists on why the United States remains, Gabbard said. She touted her experience in the Army National Guard and noted that she wouldn’t enter the White House as a “green” leader.

An isolationist policy is not the goal, Gabbard clarified. Rather she’d seek cooperation rather than conflict.

Gabbard also said she supported campaign finance reform, arguing that candidates should be able to accept money only from voters, rather than political action committees.

While many at the town hall, such as Martinez, thanked Gabbard for her visit to Colorado Springs, the El Paso County Democratic Party caught some flak for advertising the meeting, said Chair Electra Johnson. Party officials shared event info on social media and received support and backlash over the ordeal.

“People really either completely love her or completely hate her,” Johnson said.

Perhaps Gabbard’s support within veteran communities drew her to Colorado Springs, Johnson acknowledged. Her anti-war stance has played well with some local veterans.

Support or no, Johnson said Gabbard’s presence is a good thing for the city, long held as Colorado’s Republican stronghold. As voter turnout has increased in recent election cycles, she said she expects more and more Democrats to plan stops in town.

“It’s still an uphill climb for Democrats, but we’re making it easier to connect,” she said.

Johnson called Gabbard’s visit an “antidote” to President Donald Trump’s planned visit Thursday evening.

Hair dyed purple and sporting a tie-dyed Grateful Dead shirt, Gail Huscher said she likes Gabbard’s stance on wars, drugs and journalists.

“We need to be out of these wars; we’re spending money on craziness,” Huscher said as her husband nodded. “We don’t need to be spending more money on fighter jets and other things we don’t need to kill people we don’t know.”

Huscher added that Gabbard’s support for legalizing drugs would be the best way to help those with addiction or substance abuse problems. In addition, the representative’s call to drop charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in line with the value Americans place on journalists.

Indeed, Gabbard’s path to the White House would be fraught with challenges, Huscher said.

“But stranger things have happened,” she said.

Only Gabbard and California billionaire Tom Steyer failed to qualify for Wednesday’s Democratic debate. For a place on the stage they needed:

  • At least one delegate from the Iowa or New Hampshire caucuses this month.
  • At least two polls placing them at 12% or higher in Nevada, South Carolina or both.
  • At least four polls placing them at 10% or higher in those states or national surveys.

Still Gabbard said voters, rather than the Democratic National Committee and its “corporate media partners,” will select the next president.

Qualifying for the next debate on Feb. 25 appears increasingly unlikely for Gabbard, who has earned no delegates and is averaging dead last in the polls at 1.5%, according to

Asked whether qualifying for the next debate is a possibility, Gabbard replied: “We’ll see.”