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Supporters Meet Candidate Sri Kulkarni at Munday/Pal Fundraiser

Sri Preston Kulkarni, the democratic candidate in the upcoming May 22 Democratic primary runoff for the District 22 Congressional seat, is flanked by hosts (from left) Rick and Tanya Pal and Hardeepak and Preet Munday at a fundraiser in the Munday house on May 3.

Sri Preston Kulkarni, the democratic candidate in the upcoming May 22 Democratic primary runoff for the District 22 Congressional seat, is flanked by hosts (from left) Rick and Tanya Pal and Hardeepak and Preet Munday at a fundraiser in the Munday house on May 3.

By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND: As the date for the primary runoff election on May 22 gets closer, more people from the South Asian community – especially the Indian segment – in the Fort Bend area have been rushing to hold meetings and fundraisers for Sri Preston Kulkarni, the Democratic contender for the District 22 Congressional district currently held by Republican Pete Olson. Kulkarni is locked into a Democratic Primary runoff against Letitia Plummer on May 22. Early voting runs from May 14 through May 18.

 
In the March 6 primary, Kulkarni garnered 31.81% of the vote (or 9,466 votes) to Plummer’s 24.3% (or 7,230 votes). The 22nd District includes Sugar Land, Richmond-Rosenberg, most of Ft. Bend County and even Manvel, Alvin, Pearland and parts of Friendswood.

The candidate was introduced by his campaign coordinator Karim Farishta, who made a passionate case for the democratic alternative for district 22 which has been represented for the past nine years by Republican Pete Olson who is seeking his sixth term.

Alex Karjekar, a second generation Marathi-American who is running as a Democrat for State Rep from District 129, made a brief appearance.

Alex Karjekar, a second generation Marathi-American who is running as a Democrat for State Rep from District 129, made a brief appearance.

Almost 50 people came together at the fundraiser organized by Rick Pal and Hardeepak Munday, held last Thursday, May 3 at the Munday house in the Sweetwater area. Munday and Pal both welcomed the guests to the event, in which almost $7,000 was raised for the campaign. There was a spirited discussion and Q&A session afterwards. Appetizers were catered by Bombay Brasserie.

Kulkarni began with a poignant moment remembering his father Venkatesh who died of leukemia on this date 20 years ago. He recalled dropping out of school to help raise his younger siblings and the family still has many friends in the desi community who remember them and his time here.

He described the tough Alief neighborhood he grew up in and how he was bussed to Lamar High School in the upper-class River Oaks district where he was constantly reminded of the grim part of town his home was in. As a biracial child of an Indian father and an Anglo-American mother, Kulkarni recalled how he was taunted for looking different from the other kids.

Kulkarni went to the University of Texas to get his bachelor’s degree graduating with Plan II Honors, then earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. He worked in the Foreign Service and served as a policy and defense advisor to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

In response to this reporter’s question, Kulkarni said it was important for the desi community to finally have someone who understood their culture, values and the businesses which generate millions of dollars for the local economy.   

He added that his campaign was based upon increasing civic engagement by going out to all communities and connecting with them to build a larger community spirit. Even high school students have volunteered and his campaign has 93 youth volunteers. As a result of his campaign, over 4,000 Asians voted in this past primary compared to only 338 in the previous mid-term elections.

Munday noted that the diversity in the district had made it decidedly more Blue and agreed that “the time had come for the district to have a changing of the guard to a dynamic, open-minded and unique individual like Kulkarni.”

Meanwhile, Meera Kapur, a Kulkarni supporter from Sugar Land, has been actively raising money and support for him. She is impressed by his focus on bringing people together on giving people something to be for, not against, which swing voters yearned for in 2016.

She quoted the favorable coverage in The New York Times, and endorsements by the Houston Chronicle and of various faith-based and community organizations, like AFL-CIO, Fort Bend Tejano Democrats, and the Muslim, Hindu and Chinese communities as well as moderate Republicans. “The Kulkarni campaign’s extensive field operation of over 500 volunteers could help flip this district and elect the first ever Asian American Member of Congress from Texas,” said Kapur.

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