The Democratic Party’s hopes of flipping District 22 in Texas were dashed when the Associated Press called the race in favor of Republican Tory Nehls with 76 percent of the vote counted.
The promising Indian American candidate, Srinivas Rao Preston Kulkarni, a former Foreign Service officer, received 45 percent of the vote against Nehls’ 52 percent. This was Kulkarni’s second attempt. He lost in the 2018 midterm elections.
District 22 includes the Houston suburb of Fort Bend County which is considered the most diverse area in the country.
The race, which attracted national attention, with money pouring in from Indian Americans from across the country, was messy with attack ads on both sides. Nehls, a former sheriff, focused mostly on Kulkarni’s arrest for cocaine, according to new reports. Kulkarni, a Houston native, admitted it was true, but said it happened when he was 18.
In a highly competitive race, Kulkarni could not prevail even though he far outspent Nehls with ads that “focused on the sheriff’s 1998 firing from the Richmond Police Department for 19 violations in one year.”
Kulkarni also ran into some rough weather from Muslim Americans and progressive Indian Americans for his alleged links to Hindu nationalist organizations, including the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary arm of the Indian ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Kulkarni was accused of being propped up by the American wing of the RSS. A number of minority organizations campaigned against him, which is quite ironic considering that the Texas Democratic Party thought Kulkarni’s strength as a candidate lay in his ability to attract minority support with his ability to speak 6 languages.
The retirement of Representative Pete Olson, according to The New York Times, “created a highly competitive race in the Houston suburbs, which were once reliably Republican but are shifting demographically and politically.”