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Tulsi Gabbard turned down RFK Jr.’s offer to be his running mate, she says

Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who left the Democratic Party in 2022, declined an offer to be Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s running mate in his independent presidential bid, she tells ABC News.

“I met with Kennedy several times, and we have become good friends,” she said in a statement. “He asked if I would be his running mate. After careful consideration, I respectfully declined.”

Gabbard declined to explain why she turned down that offer, which has not previously been reported.

She is among an eclectic group of people whom Kennedy had considered for the role, including former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and TV host Mike Rowe.

He announced at an Oakland, California, rally last week that he had chosen Silicon Valley lawyer Nicole Shanahan, whose younger age, work in health and artificial intelligence appealed to him.

Kennedy and his campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Gabbard’s statement. However, a person close to him told ABC News, “There were definitely meetings, but it didn’t work out.”

“We talked to a bunch of people,” this person added. “Tulsi’s a rock star no matter what.”

Gabbard’s name has also been floated by some allies of former President Donald Trump to be his potential vice-presidential pick.

She ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2019 before departing the party three years later, an exit she chronicled in a book she is releasing this month, “For Love of Country: Leave the Democrat Party Behind.”

In announcing she would no longer be a Democrat, Gabbard blamed “warmongers” in the party “who are driven by cowardly wokeness, who divide us by racializing every issue.”

However, she had also become increasingly out of step with the party’s mainstream, including on issues like Florida’s controversial ban on LGBTQ+ topics in some public school classrooms, which she supported.

During her White House run, Gabbard made history when she became the first woman of color since 1972 to net a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Gabbard is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves who was deployed twice to Iraq and Kuwait and took a two-week absence from the presidential campaign trail in 2020 to report for active duty in Indonesia with the Hawaiian Army National Guard.

As a member of Congress, Gabbard drew scrutiny after she traveled to Syria in 2017, saying that she was going to see how U.S. policies were directly impacting Syrians. While there, she met with religious leaders and accepted a meeting with Syria’s autocratic president, Bashar al-Assad, amid the country’s still-ongoing civil war.

She defended her meeting, which she insisted she did in the pursuit of peace, despite backlash from some other Democratic lawmakers.

The former congresswoman also drew criticisms after she voted “present” during the House’s formal impeachment vote against then-President Donald Trump in 2019.

At the time Gabbard said that her vote was an “active protest” against the “terrible fallout of this zero-sum mindset” between the two political parties.

ABC News’ Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

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