In Houston and other parts of Southeast Texas, Diversity is often considered a strength. As home to both the most Diverse City and one of the most Diverse Counties in the United States, people in this Texas community are a window into the country’s future.
One person that may represent that future more than anyone in 2018 is Sri Kulkarni, Democratic nominee for Texas’ 22nd Congressional District. As Ella Nilsen of Vox shares, Kulkarni is running a competitive race against incumbent Pete Olson, and doing it in a transformative way…
When Democrat Sri Kulkarni started campaigning in the deep-red Texas district once represented by Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, consultants told him not to even bother trying to get the district’s Asian-American vote.
“I was told, ‘Don’t chase after Asian voters, they don’t vote,’” Kulkarni said in a recent interview with Vox, adding: “Maybe they don’t vote because we don’t bother.”
Kulkarni, a 40-year-old former foreign service official under the Bush and Obama administrations, is doing the opposite of what the consultants told him. “Why don’t we try reaching out in other languages, not just English?” Kulkarni thought. He’s running a campaign with volunteers speaking to voters in 16 languages — aggressively trying to convince the district’s Asian-American voters to cast their ballots for him.
It’s a simple premise: greeting a voter in his or her native language builds a relationship with that voter and opens a door to the community. Kulkarni already proved it worked in the primary, emerging on top in a field of five candidates. His campaign’s internal numbers suggested their outreach had dramatically increased Asian-American primary turnout, from 6 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2018.
“This thing that was a waste of time resulted in a 12-fold increase in people coming out in the Asian community,” Kulkarni told Vox.
That dramatic increase in turnout is key to a potential path to victory for Kulkarni. Which is why it’s no surprise that his Republican opponent, like President Trump, is resorting to fear and racism as a response to this unique campaign.
Here’s more on that from India West…
Rep. Pete Olson, a Texas Republican who is engrained in a contentious battle for the 22nd Congressional District, won’t say why he called his Indian American Democratic challenger, Sri Preston Kulkarni, an “Indo-American carpetbagger.”
In a video of an Oct. 23 campaign meet-and-greet obtained by HuffPost, Olson reminisced about a political rally President Donald Trump held in Texas.
“Out of nowhere Texans stood up and said, ‘CNN sucks, CNN sucks,’” Olson recalled, prompting laughs from his supporters.
Pressed by a voter on whether those shouts were appropriate, Olson shrugged. “Sometimes we have to have fun,” someone in attendance called out, the report said.
But in an era where voters are paying attention like never before, it’s quite possible that Olson’s shameful comments could backfire. Kulkarni is not only working hard to reach out to the district, he’s also not afraid to play hard ball with the incumbent’s disappointing legislative record.
As is the trend across Texas’ largest counties, those in Fort Bend are voting at historic highs for a Mid-Term election. And part of that vote may just be motivated by Kulkarni’s wise campaign strategy, then Congressman Olson should be concerned.
Whatever the results, Texas is a better state for campaigns like the one being run by Sri Kulkarni.