Longshot presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is facing some heat in her heavily Democratic home state of Hawaii for voting "present" on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Kai Kahele, a Democratic state senator who is running to succeed Gabbard in Congress, said the two most consequential votes that a member of Congress will ever cast are on whether to send troops into harm's way and whether to impeach a president. He said her decision to vote "present" was disappointing and unacceptable. "It's a political stunt, is what I think it was," Kahele said in a phone interview. He said the vote left their congressional district voiceless yet again, noting Gabbard has recently skipped most House votes while she campaigns for the Democratic nomination for president.
According to the website govtrack.us, Gabbard missed 88.7 per cent of the 141 House votes taken in the past three months. Gabbard announced earlier this year she would not run for re-election to the House so she could focus on her presidential campaign.
This decision came after she spent much of the year travelling to Iowa and New Hampshire. Kahele, meanwhile, was busily courting voters across their district which spans suburban Honolulu and largely rural nearby islands.
Sandy Ma, the executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, said Gabbard's votes aren't representative of the people in her district. She said Gabbard "shamed herself".
"In Hawaii, our constituents, the public in Hawaii, especially Representative Gabbard's constituents, have been very vocal in saying that President Trump has violated his oath of office, has violated the rule of law and has violated the US Constitution," Ma said. Hawaii's other representative in the House, Rep Ed Case, another Democrat, voted in favour of impeachment.
But voter Paul Langer said he thought Gabbard made a good decision, saying impeachment has to be a bipartisan act. "Well the question, you know, in my mind is, you know, did the president commit anything that would rise to the level of a criminal event and I don't see it," said Langer, a retired telecommunications executive living in Honolulu.
Gabbard said she was "standing in the centre" by voting present. "I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing," she said in a statement.
"I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fuelled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country."