Sri Kulkarni

Activist Sri Kulkarni has announced his intentions to run for Congress in Texas' 22nd District. The Indian American candidate will seek the Democratic nomination in the March 6 primary election. (kulkarniforcongress.com photo)

Indian American activist Sri Preston Kulkarni is throwing his name into the Texas 22nd Congressional District race.

Kulkarni, a University of Texas graduate, said on his campaign site that, growing up, he saw the inequities between the lower income communities where he lived and the affluent neighborhood where he was bused to school, and decided to become involved in public service.

The 39-year-old was raised in Houston by his parents, Margaret and Venkatesh Kulkarni, a published novelist. Venkatesh Kulkarni came from India to the United States where he met Sri's mother Margaret. The family moved to Houston in 1980, where his mother worked for oil company Exxon and Venkatesh taught at Rice University.

After earning his degree, Kulkarni was commissioned as a foreign service officer by Secretary of State Colin Powell and served his country for 14 years, with overseas tours in Iraq, Israel, Russia, Taiwan and Jamaica, according to his bio.

Kulkarni, who speaks six languages including Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Hebrew and Russian, has spent his career using his skills and education to find common ground between groups in conflict, such as Arabs and Kurds, or Israelis and Palestinians, and standing up for the truth, including combatting the Russian government’s alleged online misinformation campaign, his site said.

He was a Pearson Fellow in 2015, serving as a foreign policy and defense adviser on Capitol Hill, assisting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand with her work on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

As a Fellow, the Indian American used his knowledge of international treaties to get a rule changed by the DEA that now allows greater research on treatments for conditions such as intractable epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, PTSD and chronic pain, it said.

Last year, Kulkarni completed a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, where he was vice president for communications.

Following the divisive 2016 presidential election, Kulkarni, a Democrat, and a Republican colleague founded a bipartisan initiative called “Breaking Bread,” which aims to reduce the partisan hostility in our society, that has been repeated in several states, according to his site.

"I have spent my career trying to reduce conflict in other countries, but right now hostility and conflict are being inflamed in our own country, through the politics of anger and demagoguery, demonization of specific ethnic and religious groups, threats to rule of law, degradation of women, and an undermining of democratic institutions like a free press," Kulkarni said on his site.

"The greatest danger to our country right now is not a foreign power, but the internal divisions in our society. That is why I am coming home to Texas to serve," he added. "I know firsthand that to push back the tide of fear, we must recognize the sources which are fanning the flames of resentment and defuse them, by offering a positive vision for the future that all groups can believe in."

The candidate said if elected, he promises to be a strong advocate for returning to real Texas values, such as truth, fairness, generosity towards others and respect for the dignity of the individual.

"With your help, we can make America decent again," he said.

Five Democrats are seeking the party's nomination, including Steve Brown, Mark Gibson, Margarita Ruiz Johnson and Letitia Plummer. The incumbent is Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, who will seek the party's nomination again in 2018, but will face three other candidates to advance to the general election.

The primary election is scheduled for March 6.

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