Harris, Ft Bend Counties Turn Blue, a Victory for Diversity

Clockwise from top left: KP George and Juli Matthews at the election night victory party; Democratic candidate for the 22nd Congressional district Sri Preston Kulkarni; Rabeea Collier, R.K. Sandill and Alex Karjeker.

By Nidhi Trehan

SUGAR LAND: In an amazing victory for Democrats in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, the party captured a majority of seats in these mid-terms.

Thanks to Sri Preston Kulkarni’s efforts, Democrats got within five points of winning the US House Congressional District 22. Running an energetic, get-out-vote campaign across three counties, Kulkarni, an ex-Foreign Service Officer and multilingual political aspirant who previously worked with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, fought the tightest race in decades in District 22 (formerly the stomping ground of minority whip Republican Tom Delay). When discussing his loss (or near victory), Sri said, “this is just the beginning”!

Another highly qualified contender of South Asian heritage, attorney Juli Mathew, is now Number 3 Judge-elect for the Fort Bend County Court at Law. A Democrat, Mathew handily defeated her Republican opponent Tricia Krenek with over 54% of the vote. Mathew’s personal outreach to voters at dozens of events across the county paid off.

Another South Asian, KP George is the Democratic Fort Bend County Commissioners Court Judge-elect, after decisively winning the general election against long-term incumbent Robert Hebert with nearly 53% of the vote. George is currently serving as Position 5 representative on the Fort Bend Independent School District board. Born in South India, he previously worked for a financial firm. He is also the founder of the Hightower High School Academies’ Booster Club.

The victories for Democrats in Harris and Fort Bend counties emerged from a confluence of events which energized progressives across the political spectrum: firstly, suburban women voters were fired up, as well as youth and minority communities (Harris and Fort Bend are among the most diverse districts in the country) in relatively affluent Sugar Land and other parts of suburban southwest Houston.

This has partly to do with the on-going perceived excesses and partisanship of the current administration in Washington DC and the dynamic race led by Beto O’Rourke for the Senate (which he lost by only 2% to Cruz). Fort Bend County Democrats chairperson Cynthia Ginyard was one of the key figures in GOTV activities and organizing across the county for all candidates in “down ballot” races. Beto campaigners and volunteers too traversed up and down the county in a successful effort to get new “non-voters” to participate.

These all combined to create an unprecedented blue “tsunami” in both counties that saw the entire slate of Democratic candidates ride the coattails of Beto O’Rourke and sweep every judiciary and county position in Harris.

Other Asians in areawide races were Alex Karjeker for Texas House District 129, Rabeea Collier for Texas District Court 113 and Ravi K. Sandill for Texas Supreme Court Place 4.

Alexander Jonathan Karjeker was a Democratic candidate who sought election to the Texas House of Representatives to represent the South Houston District 129 that covers Pearland, Friendswood, and Clear Lake all the way to Kemah. Karjeker garnered 41.7% or 26,797 votes but lost to his Republican opponent Dennis Paul who received 56.6% or 36,300 votes. Karjeker, of Filipino-Indian (Marathi) heritage, was born in Houston and studied mathematics and economics at the University of Texas and earned master’s degrees in public policy and economics from Georgetown University in 2012. Karjeker’s career experience includes working as a research analyst with Uber. He was married to Bijal Mehta last year in October

Rabeea Collier became the Democrat Judge-elect of the 113th Civil District Court of Harris County. She ran against Republican Michael Landrum who was appointed to the position in May 2013 by Governor Rick Perry and was seeking re-election. Collier received 54.6% or 645,784 votes to defeat Landrum. Collier, a Pakistani-American and native Houstonian who went to Kingwood High School, the University of Texas at Austin and received her Law degree from Texas Southern University. She is married to Robert Collier, an attorney, and they have two sons.

R.K. Sandill, a Democrat, garnered 46.2% or 3,767,678 votes but lost to Republican John Devine. Sandill is currently the Judge of the 127th Civil District Court of Harris County since 2009 and is the first ever district judge in Texas of South Asian descent. Sandill, of Punjabi heritage, lives in Houston, Texas. He earned a B.A. in government from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998 and a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center in 2001. Sandill’s career experience includes working as an attorney with Steele Sturm.

Contributor: Jawahar Malhotra