MOUNT PLEASANT, IA -- U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is taking a different tact than other Democratic candidates in her bid for president, emphasizing her desire to end the United States' role in "regime change wars around the world."
A 16-year member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, Gabbard, 38, talks more about foreign policy and her philosophy on war than any other Democratic candidate running for president.
"Trillions of our taxpayer dollars are being taken out of our pockets to continue to wage regime change wars around the world," said Gabbard, Wednesday afternoon at Central Park Coffee Co. in downtown Mount Pleasant.
Before the U.S. could provide universal health care, invest in education or combat climate change, Gabbard said, leaders must have a change in priorities and start to put "service above self at the forefront."
She called out Republican President Donald Trump and his "neocon, war-hawk cabinet" for attempting to aid regime change in Iran and Venezuela.
"The consequences of this will be devastating and extremely costly for the people in the countries where they want to wage these wars, as well as for us, the American people," Gabbard said, to a crowd of about 30 people at the coffee shop.
Elected to Congress in 2012, Gabbard made a name for herself among Democratic activists when she resigned her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee to support presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election. Before entering the U.S. House of Representatives, at 21 years old she served two years in the Hawaii House of Representatives as the youngest woman in any state Legislature. She then served briefly on the Honolulu City Council before launching her congressional campaign.
She announced her run for president in January.
In Mount Pleasant, Gabbard said she was seeking the White House to "bring about that major change that we need to see in our country's priorities."
"There is so much at stake; this is not about politics and this is not a game," the congresswoman said. "In order to do so, it will require every one of us standing united, inspired by that love and care that we have for each other and for our country."
For Daniel Clark, a volunteer with Gabbard's campaign, he was drawn to her foreign policy and willingness to stand up to the DNC.
"When she stepped down from the DNC to endorse Bernie, that really put her on my radar as somebody who was willing to stand up for what's right, even if it's an unpopular decision," said Clark, of Mount Pleasant, a 2016 Sanders delegate.
As someone with a family member in the military, Clark said he "trusted" her not to push the country into war unnecessarily.
Like many candidates in the Democratic field, Gabbard told the crowd she was in favor of Medicare-for-all, a policy proposal for the federal government to provide health insurance for all Americans. On immigration, she referenced the May 2018 Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at Midwest Precast Concrete in Mount Pleasant, decrying the "hyper-partisanship" in Washington, D.C., that prevents Congress from reforming the embattled system.
Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, called the Democratic field an "embarrassment of riches," noting the "great candidates who are running that represent such diverse parts of our country and such diverse ideas."
In southeast Iowa alone, Gabbard's visit marked the fifth candidate this year to meet area voters. She also made stops Wednesday in Fairfield, Fort Madison and Burlington.
"The advice that I give to candidates every time is to be authentic and to be true to who they are," Price told The Hawk Eye. "It's not easy to be truly authentic in this process, but that's what I've seen over my years of doing this, is the person that they can connect to best is who they're going to go with."
Mark Zanger, of Maharishi Vedic City, said Gabbard was the first presidential candidate he saw this cycle.
"I was delighted," said Zanger, who asked Gabbard how voters could help ensure her place on the debate stage this summer. "She's clear and seems to me like she would make an effective leader."
This article is written by Elizabeth Meyer from The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.