PORTLAND, Maine — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii drew a lively crowd for a town hall at the University of Southern Maine on Saturday night, though many of them will not be able to help the longshot Democratic presidential candidate win Maine’s March 3 primary.
Gabbard spoke extensively about the harm of partisanship, saying the president was supposed to “serve all Americans.” She asked members of the audience — a crowd of more than 200 — to raise their hands based on party affiliation.
The bulk of the crowd identified as Green or independent, with some Democrats and a few Republicans in the mix. Only registered Democrats can vote in the party’s primary in Maine. Voters in other parties who want to vote in the primary had until Friday to change their registration, while unenrolled voters can become Democrats by Election Day and still vote.
In an interview with the Bangor Daily News, Gabbard said that attracting such political diversity put her in an ideal position to defeat Trump in November and help the country “move forward together.”
“Throughout my entire campaign, we have been actively reaching out and inviting people from any and all political parties,” she said.
The Hawaii representative’s message of unity appealed to some attendees. David Vincent of Portland said he would be voting for Gabbard in the primary because he was “tired of the games” and thought she was “the realest candidate.”
“If you’re wearing a red hat or a blue hat, we’re all together,” he said.
Spiros Paras of York Beach described himself as a “Democrat for Tulsi, Republican for anyone else,” saying he appreciated the Hawaii representative’s stand against “crony capitalism.”
Paras splits his time between Maine and New Hampshire and voted for Gabbard in the New Hampshire primary, which was open to members of any party. Gabbard finished with 3.3 percent of the vote, despite renting a house in Manchester and focusing heavily on the state.
Gabbard, the first female combat veteran to run for the presidency, has made foreign policy a focal point for her campaign and took the opportunity to make her pitch to end “wasteful regime change wars.” She argued that money spent on maintaining troops in countries such as Afghanistan would be better spent on domestic projects like health care and infrastructure.
Her views have often put her at odds with mainstream Democrats. Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, implied last year without evidence that Gabbard was “a Russian asset,” drawing a defamation lawsuit from the congresswoman who visited Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2017 and has been skeptical of credible claims that he used chemical weapons against his own people.
Gabbard has spoken in favor of ranked-choice voting, which the Maine Legislature last year expanded to presidential elections. It will not affect the March primary, though it could be used in the general election if a Republican effort to repeal the law fails to make the ballot.
The congresswoman said in an interview that she was not considering a third-party run and had not thought about how ranked-choice voting could affect her in the race.
“I’m running to be the Democratic nominee,” she said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated voter enrollment rules for Mainers who want to vote in the Democratic presidential primary on March 3. It is open only to registered Democrats, but unenrolled voters can join the party through Election Day and still vote. People enrolled in other parties had until Friday to become Democrats in time to vote.