'Pro-Assad' Congresswoman Gabbard loses key support ahead of primaries
Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii representative for the Democratic Party, was widely criticised after it was reported that she met with Assad in January 2017, on a trip funded by pro-regime organisations. She did not disclose these details to her party's leadership.
After the trip she Gabbard wrote that the US was arming "terrorist" rebel groups in the country, and that moderate rebels were no different to the radical Islamic State group and al-Qaeda.
Gabbard was also one of the few US public officials not to point the finger at the Assad regime for the devastating chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta in April that killed scores of civilians.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the fourth-largest union in the state, will instead endorse Gabbard's challenger and relative outlier Stacey Campagna in the Democratic primaries in August.
|She [Gabbard] was one of just three representatives, and the only Democrat who refused to condemn Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's genocidal chemical attack on his own people|
The HSTA strongly condemned Gabbard's Syria stance in an email to its members seen by HuffPost:
"She [Gabbard] was one of just three representatives, and the only Democrat who refused to condemn Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's genocidal chemical attack on his own people. After the attack, Gabbard traveled to Syria to meet with the genocidal dictator al-Assad, without permission from the White House or Congress. Her trip was funded by a group with ties to al-Assad supporters and she only covered the expenses herself after the news media reported who paid for her trip," the union stated.
"After al-Assad bombed his people again, Gabbard continued to refuse to admit the attack had occurred. At the same time, she voted to practically ban Syrian refugees from coming into the United States after the Paris terrorist attacks, even though Syrian refugees were not involved in the attacks."
The state of Hawaii has one of the highest union membership rates in the US, with 22 percent of its population belonging to a labour association according to TIME magazine.
The HSTA has around 13,000 members and its political advocacy has considerable sway in state politics.
It is not yet clear whether Hawaii's other labour unions will follow suit.
Gabbard attracted a large following since her election to Congress in 2012, in part due to her staunch support of Bernie Sanders. Her socialist policies and support for Assad has led her to be labelled as part of the "alt-left".
"The endorsement is groundbreaking," said Campagna at a press conference on Tuesday. "I haven’t even been able to process what this means to me."