The Federal Election Commission recently released candidates’ updated financial filings showing that Pearland’s U.S. Representative Pete Olson continued to out-fundraise his Democratic opponent Sri Kulkarni. The FEC states that from October 1st, 2017 to June 30th Kulkarni has raised $405,000. Olson’s fundraising operations have run from January 1st, 2017 to June 30th, 2018 bringing in right at $1 million dollars. However, this may not be good news for Olson, or the Republican Party in general.
“If I were Pete’s people I’d be worried,” states Professor of Political Science for the College of the Mainland (Texas City) Jason Perry. “Mr. Kulkarini has raised more than ten times as much as the Democrats had raised at this point in the 2016 congressional election. Kulkarni is also the classic Washington insider who has deep support from the National Democratic Party. I would expect to see a visit from Hillary or Bill Clinton to the district. Kulkarni was Kristen Gillibrand’s staffer, and Gillibrand has long-term ties to the Clintons.” This suggestion isn’t too far off as Bill Clinton made a visit to support Pearland’s former Democrat representative Nick Lampson. Kulkarni was a staffer for New York’s senator Kristen Gillibrand. Although, it is unclear how much support the New York Senator will eventually lend to the congressional hopeful.
(Left) Kulkarni touts his experience working for Gillibrand (Right) Gillibrand with a supporter
Kulkarni is a recent resident of the district, having moved from New York to live with his mother in Pearland. It is unclear how his short tenure as a resident in the area will compete with Olson’s long-term service to the district. “Pete does have a history with the area,” notes Perry, “and I would expect him to get a boost from bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars for flood relief – and for his Harvey response. However, I still don’t think Pete has it in the bag. Republicans should be worried.” Perry makes reference to Olson’s announcement of securing $537 million dollars worth of Army-Core-of-Engineers projects to prevent future flooding in the district. However, there seems to be growing antipathy towards the incumbent congressman. Pearland residents even have claimed to see “Olson: No” signs around town. A MyPearlandNews reader sent MPN staff this photo:
Kulkarni has been quick to racialize the election. Kulkarni has promoted his own personal racial identity. Kulkarni’s father is of Indian descent; and, Texas US District 22 has a large Indian population. Kulkarni believes this India connection will help secure votes. His racial strategy was so successful that it caused his competition in the Democratic primary MPN Hottest Single Dr. Letitia Plummer herself eventually claim the be part Indian and Arab. Kulkarni’s strategy seems to be to use tribal preferences and hope the district’s large Asian population will vote for Kulkarni based on this in-group preference. “That’s the part that I think should be getting this election national attention,” remarks Perry, “there is a large conservative Asian voter block who will be deciding between voting for their conservative ideology or voting their racial idenity. This will be fascinating to watch unfold.” Kulkarni holds liberal views and has a history of cocaine use that once lead to an arrest. It will be interesting to see if Kulkarni’s politics or history turn off any conservatives in the district who might be considering voting for the Democratic Party due to frustration over President Trump’s actions, or general frustration with the status quo. Kulkarni also plans to get voters through his push to make the district safer for our children by instituting gun control. Kulkarni has taken part in many anti-gun demonstrations, including the march for our lives in solidarity with the Parkland survivors.
Perry, closed his conversation with MPN noting, “The one thing Pete has going for him is his political machine, I’ve met his campaign people. And, I’ve met Kulkarni’s people… and If I was going on volunteers and staff alone. I’d want to be Pete Olson right now.” Kulkarni has been able to successfully engage and recruit a large and young base of volunteers including high school students. Kulkarni even made national news for his diverse campaign staff including transgender campaign workers. Olson has made efforts to recruit the youth, even having released a Pete Olson line of fidget spinners. However, Olson’s volunteer base remains older and possibly more experienced.
Nationally the Democratic Party is polling higher than their Republican counterparts with the Real Clear Politics polling average predicting the Democrats to win the national congressional popular vote by more than seven percent. “You could definitely see a Democrat pick up in Texas… possibly in Will Hurd’s district; and given the right type of turn out it is possible to see the Democrat’s pick up Pete Olson’s seat.” Pete’s defeat would not be unheard of as the district was won by the Democratic Party as recently as 2006 when the Democrats won the district by more than 11,000 votes. Is this the year that the blue wave hits Pearland? Only, time will tell.
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