Tulsi Gabbard says she was uninvited to Democratic presidential debate

Tulsi Gabbard uninvited to presidential debate
Published: Oct. 12, 2015 at 10:13 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 13, 2015 at 10:27 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the past several weeks, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been outspoken in her calls for more Democratic Party presidential debates.

But after renewing that point during an interview with MSNBC on Saturday, she said officials with the Democratic National Committee told her not to show up for first presidential debate Tuesday in Las Vegas.

"Basically, they said if you're going to continue to disagree with the chairwoman's decision, it would be best if you not go," said Gabbard, a DNC vice chair.

"It's a petty and very immature way to react."

Democrats have scheduled six presidential debates, while Republicans have 11.

The controversy has landed Gabbard in the national limelight. Earlier today, she appeared on CNN with Wolf Blitzer to talk about the dispute.

"The issue here is not about me saying boo-hoo, I'm going to miss the party. The issue is one of democracy and of freedom of speech," she told CNN.

The DNC denied that it told Gabbard not to attend. It issued this statement to CNN today:

"All that was asked of Gabbard's staff was to prioritize our candidates and this opportunity to introduce themselves to the American people," a DNC spokeswoman said.

This is not the first time Gabbard has sparred with the Democratic party leaders. Earlier this year, she was critical of President Obama's policies on dealing with terrorists in Syria.

"She has managed to frustrate the president and the party at times. But this stuff plays well with the public," said Colin Moore, a University of Hawaii political science professor.

"There's not a lot they can do the Congresswoman. She has a very safe district, she can raise her own money. But in theory there could be some repercussions. Maybe she won't rise as far in the party. Maybe they'll try to withhold campaign money when she runs for higher position."

The controversy comes as Gabbard celebrated her promotion to the rank of major in the Hawaii Army National Guard this morning. She said the ceremony at Punchbowl -- attended by former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, current U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and fellow U.S. Rep. Mark Takai -- reminded her of what's important for her.

"I'm reminded of all of those who sacrificed ...  for these democratic ideals. They sacrificed for our democracy and that's why I feel so strongly about doing this," she said.

"I'm not going to step down my call, which has been echoed by at least one vice chair of the DNC, echoed by many of the presidential candidates running for president, echoed by the American people."

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign offered Gabbard one of their tickets. But Gabbard said she would only go under one condition:

"If there was a position allowing for more debates, then I would be very happy to go," she said.

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