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Gabbard hosts town hall in Fort Dodge

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a Democratic candidate for president, greets Fort Dodge residents, Jackie and Larry Anderson, prior to her town hall at The Lion’s Den on Tuesday evening.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii, believes that “we the people” need to rise up to “actually make our democracy work for us.”

Gabbard, a Democratic candidate for president, made a stop in Fort Dodge on Tuesday evening to host a town hall at The Lion’s Den at Armstrong Park.

After greeting each of the three dozen attendees with a handshake, Gabbard got started with the town hall.

“I want to start with what I think is the most important point that I hope you take away from this evening,” she said. “And that is both the recognition of the problems that we face and where we can find hope and the solution.”

The congresswoman said many of the different challenges Americans are concerned about in their everyday lives — whether it be health care, immigration reform, rebuilding infrastructure or the criminal justice system – can be traced back to Washington, D.C.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, hosted a town hall at The Lion’s Den in Fort Dodge on Tuesday evening. Gabbard is running for the Democratic nomination for president.

“So many of these issues can be rooted back to the biggest problem we face in Washington, which is that we’ve got a government that is essentially a government for the very few, the very rich and the very powerful,” Gabbard said. “And we the people get left behind as a result.”

Gabbard plans to be the force that shifts that status quo.

“Person by person, town by town, state by state, people rising up and making sure our voices are heard and recognizing how essential it is that if we care for each other, our families, our friends and our communities, then we must be the change,” she told the crowd. “Because it is only we the people who can overcome the most rich and powerful and the obstacles they set before us in our path. History has shown us over time, it is only when we the people rise up that we can actually make our democracy work for us.”

Health care, foreign policy and immigration were the main topics Gabbard discussed at the town hall.

With the high cost of health care creating a burden on Americans who may not be able to afford to see a doctor or to fill a prescription, laws need to change to work in favor of patients rather than large pharmaceutical companies, Gabbard said, citing the laws restricting Medicare from negotiating with drug companies to lower prescription drug prices.

“Which to me is such a blatant example of how our laws are not working for us, they’re working for those who are making a lot of money off of us and off the backs of people who are sick and facing great hardship,” she said.

Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, also called for the United States to end its involvement in Middle East conflicts.

“We must end these wasteful regime change wars that have taken thousands of American lives, that have cost us trillions of dollars, that have cost such pain and suffering in the countries where we’ve waged these wars, and have actually made our country less safe,” she said.

As a soldier in the National Guard, Gabbard has served two deployments to the Middle East. As commander in chief, she said the kid of leadership she would bring to the issue of foreign policy would be focused on cooperation rather than conflict, by working out differences and using shared areas of interests.

Erin Rial, of Fort Dodge, asked Gabbard about immigration and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Immigration is a huge issue that is too often dissolved to focusing on only what is happening at our border,” Gabbard said.

While “what is happening there is very important for us to deal with,” Gabbard said, it isn’t the only thing Americans should be concerned about in regards to immigration. She talked about improving the legal immigration system and added that the United States does need to secure its borders, though not by “a wall from sea to shining sea.”

She suggested utilizing technology to better secure and patrol parts of the border that fencing and other barriers can’t secure.

“Without a secure border, we’re not really a country,” she said.

Gabbard had visited Fort Dodge earlier this month at the Western Iowa Labor Federation’s Labor Day picnic at Oleson Park on Sept. 1. The candidate’s speech at that event is what drew Rial to Tuesday’s town hall.

“I had seen her at the Labor Day picnic and I was impressed with her that day because she only talked about labor on Labor Day,” Rial said. “So I came back tonight because I wanted to hear her talk about her.”

Rial said Gabbard’s message was “wonderful” and that she learned a lot.

“Truthfully, I was a little skeptical about her foreign policy going in, and she explained it quite well,” Rial said.

Another attendee asked Gabbard if she had put any thought into if she aligns well enough with any other candidates in the race to consider either asking one to run as her vice president or to accept an offer to run as vice president herself.

“I’m not spending one moment thinking about VP picks one way or another, because I’m focused on being your president, period,” Gabbard answered.

Despite not qualifying to participate in the third Democratic Party debates last week, Gabbard will be sticking around in the race.

“Our campaign is going full speed ahead and will be spending a lot of time here in your beautiful state,” she said.