Candidate Sri Kulkarni Shares His Platform at Rao’s Fundraiser

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Ashok Rao introduced Sri Preston Kulkarni, the democratic candidate in the upcoming May 22 Democratic primary runoff for the District 22 Congressional seat, at a fundraiser in his house on April 17.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Ever since he announced his candidacy for the District 22 Congressional seat, this Democratic contender, Sri Preston Kulkarni, has stolen the hearts and minds of many of the desi community. Not only is he a product of growing up in a tough Alief neighborhood, and later went to the University of Texas to get his bachelor’s degree, Kulkarni still has many friends from among the desi community who remember his time here and his family.

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Several of them were among the 50 people who came together at the fundraiser held last Tuesday, April 17 at the house of Ashok and Sheila Rao in the Memorial area and rubbed shoulders with the candidate who is in a Democratic Primary runoff against Letitia Plummer on May 22. 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). Early voting runs from May 14 through May 18. The 22nd District includes Sugar Land, Richmond-Rosenberg, most of Ft. Bend County and even Manvel, Alvin, Pearland and parts of Friendswood.

Ashok Rao welcomed the guests to the event which was held by the backyard pool, with appetizers and a buffet dinner catered by Songkran Thai Kitchen, of which the Raos are part owners. There was a spirited discussion and Q&A session afterwards.

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.

Kulkarni began by asking for a moment of silence in homage to the passing earlier that day of former First Lady Barbara Bush. He went on to describe the tough 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 was taunted for looking different from the other kids.

He went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University, work in the Foreign Service and serve as a policy and defense advisor to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Kulkarni said his 14 years in the US Foreign Service has taught him that we are not all perfect but current events, especially after the 2016 elections, have tried to separate us and make the US like a conflict zone. “We need healing in this country even if we don’t agree on policy,” he said. “People say they believe in my values. Well, these are also Hindu values and it goes to show that we are not as divided as it seems.”

Kulkarni added that his campaign was based upon 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. “It’s about increasing civic engagement,” he said. “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”