The bloodiest congressional primary of 2020 is finally over, and one thing is clear: national security expert Sri Kulkarni is in prime position to turn Texas’ 22nd Congressional District blue in November. In this campaign, Kulkarni will continue to advance his unique, civil approach to politics that’s bringing Texans off the sidelines and charting new territory in the Greater Houston suburbs.
The primary could not have gone worse for Republicans. First, incumbent Congressman Pete Olson announced his retirement almost immediately after Kulkarni outraised him. While Troy Nehls signaled he’d run for Congress, national Republicans scrambled to recruit around him (Olson’s aides leaked damning opposition research on Nehls in 2017). After many recruiting failures, they reeled in Pierce Bush and threw the party’s weight behind him. He flopped. Then, already facing a toxic runoff between Kathaleen Wall and Troy Nehls, coronavirus concerns pushed the election back to July 14 and extended the exchange of blows by an extra month and a half.
Kulkarni, on the other hand, decisively won his primary on March 3 and has spent the past four months growing his impressive grassroots, multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition that is engaging Texans in 21 different languages and demonstrating what the future of Texas politics can look like. Kulkarni has also built up a significant $1.1 million war chest, shattering the previous TX-22 fundraising record in a quarter set by then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Holding a 32-to-1 cash on hand advantage over Troy Nehls’ underfunded campaign, Sri Kulkarni and his grassroots movement will be a force to be reckoned with in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District.
Sri Kulkarni is a perfect fit for a changing district
TX-22 represents the future of Texas politics, home to the kind of electorate where chasm-deep cracks are emerging for Republicans. Along with a large college-educated white population that’s running away from the Republican Party faster than you can say “Troy Nehls destroyed evidence and was fired as a police officer,” the district is growing so rapidly that it is now the nation’s largest and most diverse individual congressional district at nearly 1 million Texans, a quarter of whom identify as immigrants. Today, it’s 38 percent White, 27% Hispanic, 19% Asian American and Pacific Islander, and 14.4% Black.
In order for any candidate to win this district, they’ll need to reach out to new voters and communities, advocate for practical solutions to community problems, and stay above the divisive rhetoric that people are so sick of in politics. These are all things that Troy Nehls is physically and financially incapable of doing. Even worse, Nehls did precious little as Kathaleen Wall and other area members of his party attacked the existence and livelihood of our community members with racist smears. Texans will remember.
Sri Kulkarni perfectly represents what makes TX-22 unique. He is the son of an immigrant and a descendant of Sam Houston. He is a national security expert who has spent his life working for the betterment of others. As a teenager, he put college on hold to come home to take care of his family when his father was diagnosed with cancer. After his father passed away, he worked his way through school while his family was burdened by the mountain of medical bills they had accumulated.
Despite all of this, Sri was able to graduate from college with honors, and decided he wanted to continue working on behalf of others. He joined the Foreign Service and served under the American flag in both Democratic and Republican administrations in places like Iraq, Jerusalem and Russia. After he spent 14 years abroad bringing people together to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems, he decided to come home when he realized that hyper-partisan rhetoric and attacks on our democratic institutions were a bigger threat to our country than anything abroad.
That’s why the Houston Chronicle endorsed Sri in 2018 and in the 2020 primary, praising his fresh approach to politics—guided by his service to our country overseas—that seeks to unite, lower the partisan temperature and bring Texans together.
Nehls faces new scrutiny on his record of failure and a huge cash deficit
Troy Nehls has a long history of failing the families he was sworn to protect.
Nehls’ favorability has plunged after millions of dollars in TV ad attacks over his indifference to human trafficking in Fort Bend County — an issue that’s not going away anytime soon thanks to his failures as sheriff. Now, Nehls is under fire for attacking those same victims who had the courage to step forward. And amid a pandemic, Nehls has consistently downplayed the coronavirus’ threat to score political points, while failing to keep the virus out of his own jail.
As a result of the utter lack of enthusiasm for his campaign, from both voters in the district and national Republicans, Nehls enters the general election with a laughable grand total of just $33,492 in one of the nation’s most expensive media markets.
Whether on the campaign trail or in his capacity as sheriff, Nehls is displaying the same type of incompetence that got him fired from his job as a police officer. As voters learn more about Nehls’ record of misconduct and negligence, they’ll see the last thing he deserves is a promotion to Congress.
Sri swears off corporate PACs, while Nehls looks for a special interest bailout
Citing the need to get big money out of politics, Kulkarni refuses all corporate PAC money. But it hasn’t stopped our campaign from raising a record-breaking $950,000 in Q2 and shattering then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s record. We’ve accomplished that by running one of the most exciting campaigns in the country, an operation that has earned attention and praise as one of the most innovative grassroots efforts in the country, reaching Texans in 21 different languages and registering more than 40,000 new voters by engaging the previously ignored communities that make TX-22 the most diverse congressional district in the country.
Kulkarni’s campaign by the numbers:
- Q2 raised: $950,000
- Cash on hand: $1.1 million
- Total raised for 2020 cycle so far: $2.4 million
- Total raised for entire 2018 cycle: $1.6 million
- Corporate PAC money: $0
Kulkarni’s grassroots approach will take heightened importance as Nehls prepares to send up flares for outside air support from Washington special interests, corporate PACs, and dark money groups to rescue his flailing campaign.
Troy Nehls won his nomination by taking reckless and extreme positions and attempting to hide from the press. While that paid off in a Republican primary where the race was decided by a small and hard-right electorate, it will not work in a general election where an increasingly moderate and diverse electorate wants pragmatic leaders, not partisan bomb-throwers. Nehls’ extremist rhetoric and inability to build meaningful inroads with diverse communities make his path to victory extremely narrow in a general election.