- Her race against 9-term Republican incumbent John Carter is said to be the most challenging for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the state.
This Nov. 3, Bangladeshi American Donna Imam is seeking to create history by unseating longtime Republican Congressman John Carter in Texas’ 31st District. If elected, she will become the first South Asian woman from Texas in the U.S. Congress.
Imam, a computer engineer and a tech entrepreneur who has worked in the nonprofit sector, won the Democratic primary last month. According to the Associated Press, Imam, who ran on a progressive platform that embraced Medicare for All, defeated physician Christine Mann, with 70 percent of precincts reporting.
On her website, Imam says she’s “an engineer and an entrepreneur,” and finds solutions to large scale problems. “My experience in product, financial analysis, and cost reduction have made me apt at solving complicated challenges,” she says. Her platform is simple, her website says. “It rebuilds the crumbling foundation of this country. “It lifts up every American — the people who work every day and carry America on their shoulders — so we can all flourish together, continue to innovate, and lead economically.”
Imam earned a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Purdue University and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Trine University. “I went to Trine University, in the small, rural, snowy, conservative, Midwestern rust-belt town of Angola, in the flyover state of Indiana,” she says on her website. She has served as board president of ProductCamp Austin.
The Texas Tribune says the 31st District, held by Carter, a nine-term incumbent, “has shaped up to be the most challenging target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in Texas.” Ballotpedia says the district has 4.4 percent Asian American voting population. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “likely Republican.”
The state is being seen as central to building on the Democratic party’s House majority in 2020. The Texas Tribune notes that the DCCC has named five candidates across races to their Red to Blue program, “and they are even exploring additional pickup possibilities, recently polling in at least two districts that are not on their current target list.”
Imam has not yet been elevated by the DCCC with Red to Blue status. However, she has some high-profile endorsements. Prior to the July 14 primary, Imam was endorsed by Andrew Yang, the former 2020 presidential candidate, among others. Post the runoff, she has received support from Julián Castro, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, also a 2020 presidential candidate, and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke. She has also been endorsed by EMGAGE USA, USA, a Muslim outreach organization, which seeks to mobilize American Muslims to advocate for legislation and policies.
Kim Gilby, the chair of the Williamson County Democratic Party, told the Texas Tribune that Imam “definitely ran her campaign her own way” and called the fundraising disparity “alarming.” But she said Imam clearly has a strategy with some merit given her 13-point runoff win, as well as an “incredible work ethic” that means she should not be totally underestimated.
Last month, Imam faced criticism for blocking a significant number of potential voters from her campaign’s social media accounts. Several of the comments were also said to be deleted. “Notably, a large number of those blocked have been people who liked and joined groups and pages belonging to her Democrat primary runoff opponent Christine Mann or some of the Republic candidates in the race,” the Hill Country News reported.
Another highly-watched race in Texas, is the 22nd Congressional District, which has 15.4 percent of Asian American voting population, the largest in the state. Sri Preston Kulkarni, who is on DCCC’s Red to Blue list, is vying to flip the open seat this November. In 2018, he came within 5 points of unseating Republican Rep. Pete Olson for the same seat.
South Asian Americans have emerged as an influential voting bloc in Congressional districts across Texas. 2010 U.S. Census data reveals that in Texas’ 3rd and 24th Congressional Districts, which fall in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, almost 10 percent of the voting-eligible population is Asian American.