Demings planning to run for Senate instead of Florida governor
DNC chairman: Gabbard reaffirmed she will not launch a third-party bid
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Wednesday that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has reaffirmed her commitment to run only for president as a Democrat amid suspicions from some in the party that she's thinking about launching an independent or third-party bid.
Speaking at roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Perez said he spoke with Gabbard and all of the campaigns last week. He noted that all of the candidates remain committed to honoring a pledge they signed earlier in the cycle to only run for president as a Democrat.
"We've worked with every campaign including the Gabbard campaign and she's told us, and she's told the American people, 'I am not running as a third party candidate,'" Perez said. "We asked every candidate to take that pledge ... Tulsi took it enthusiastically ... she took an unequivocal pledge in that regard."
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her allies have been warning Democrats that Gabbard is a "favorite of the Russians" and that Republicans are grooming her for a third-party bid in an effort to siphon off votes from the eventual Democratic nominee.
Gabbard has since announced that she will not seek reelection to the House, further raising suspicions among some Democrats that she's plotting a third party bid.
There is no evidence that Gabbard is coordinating with Russia in any way, and the Hawaii Democrat has repeatedly insisted that she will not launch an independent or third-party campaign for president if she does not win the Democratic nomination.
Clinton and her allies are still angry with Green Party candidate Jill Stein, believing she attracted votes that otherwise would have gone to Clinton in key battleground states in 2016, potentially tipping the election in President Trump's favor.
Clinton and her supporters have pointed to suspicious online bot activity amplifying Gabbard's attacks against Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to claim that the Hawaii Democrat is the Kremlin's favored candidate.
Experts note that foreign interference campaigns are aimed at sowing general divisions in the U.S. political system and that they don't necessarily have a favored candidate.
Regardless, Gabbard has said repeatedly that she will run as a Democrat or not at all. She has not made any overtures to a third party and it would be very difficult for her to get on the ballot in most states as an independent at this point.
The Democratic National Committee has asked all of the campaigns to support the eventual nominee and provide a surrogate or adviser from their own campaign to work with the party's general election candidate to bolster unity.
"I asked every candidate not only to support the nominee but to actively campaign for the nominee, to have a surrogate or ambassador once they leave the race," Perez said.
"Every single one of them has taken that pledge. They signed a document early on to run as a Democrat. They made a very clear commitment last week, and I have absolute confidence that every single one will follow through on that."