As Texas Suburbs Diversify, Democrats See An Opportunity For 2020
As Republican retirements stack up, Democrats are bullish about gains in Texas, with rapid demographic shifts among Hispanics and Asians. Plus, a backlash against President Trump. ...
But there’s still more work to do, local Democrats are quick to point out. Their next big target is the 22nd congressional District. It went for Mitt Romney by 25 points in 2012, but in 2016 Trump only carried it by 8 points. And last month Republican Rep. Pete Olson announced he was retiring.
During his 2018 campaign against Olson, former foreign service officer Sri Preston Kulkarni tried to tap into those changing demographics, especially the 22nd’s foreign born population, a quarter of the district. A key part of his strategy last year was reaching out to immigrants — often in their native languages — after realizing that almost three-quarters of those voters had never been contacted by a Democrat or a Republican.
Kulkarni came within five points of beating the GOP incumbent.
“I studied linguistics in college. I speak six language myself. They said, ‘Don’t bother with those voters because they don’t vote.’ I said, ‘Maybe they don’t vote because we don’t bother.’ And so we tried it, and we brought out more people than anybody had ever imagined,” Kulkarni said.
According to numbers from Rice’s Jones, the changing demographic shifts are significant. In 2010, 54% of the district’s voting age population was Anglo. By 2019, it’s dropped to 47%, with about 20% Latino, 17% Asian-American and 15% African-American. And Jones expects the upcoming Census next year to give an even clearer reflection of the monumental shifts.
Kulkarni himself personifies the changes at play in this part of Texas. His father was an Indian immigrant. His mother is actually a descendant of Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas. If elected in 2020, Kulkarni would not only be the first Asian-American to represent Texas, he’d be the first Hindu too.
“This stereotype that Texans only look one way, they only have one religion, they only talk one way — that’s from 20 or 30 years ago. Look around you, look around at Fort Bend, look around at Houston, look around at this state,” Kulkarni said.
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