Multilingual Texas Candidate Aims to Flip District Reaching Out to Diverse Communities in 13 Languages
This month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tapped Texas’s 22nd District for their "Red to Blue" program -- a highly competitive and battle-tested program at the DCCC that arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to run strong campaigns. Democratic candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni is aiming to unseat incumbent Congressman Pete Olson (R-TX). Kulkarni is armed with a multilingual, multigenerational, multicultural battery of dedicated volunteers, in the rapidly changing district. His campaign has held phone banks in 13 languages, including six major dialects spoken in India and a Nigerian language called Igbo. Organizers have dispatched volunteers to micro-target tiny communities. Internal figures show an increase in the Asian American percentage of the primary electorate from 6% in 2014, the last midterm election, to 28% in 2018. Kulkarni campaign could become a model for how to target marginalized, frequently ignored communities that historically don’t vote -- mostly because nobody has ever tried to engage them. The district has 897,000 residents, making it the largest congressional district outside the state of Delaware. About 20% of its population is of Asian heritage -- more than any other district in Texas. About 25% of the district's population is foreign-born, according to U.S. Census records. More than 100 languages are spoken in the district. Kulkarni himself speaks seven languages fluently: English, Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Hebrew, and Russian. The 40-year-old University of Texas and Harvard grad spent 14 years in the foreign service, with tours in Iraq, Israel, Russia, Taiwan, and Jamaica. Should he win the seat, his success could be attributed to his cultural competence. He knows what an error it is to view the AAPI voting bloc as solely Asian American. East Asians from the Philippines, China, and Taiwan had to be approached differently from South Asians from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Even within that, there are sub-groups from the Indian subcontinent, like Gujaratis, Punjabis, and Bengalis. And all of these cultures are represented in the 22nd District. His campaign raised over $500,000 in the last quarter, extending his total contributions to $1 million. More here.