Several Indian American candidates were positioned throughout the Texas political landscape for the March 6 primary, with only congressional candidate Sri Kulkarni advancing to a runoff and others falling short.
Kulkarni, in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District, received 31.8 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, 7.5 percent better than the next candidate Letitia Plummer, who nabbed 24.3 percent. The two will have a runoff election May 22.
“We are all grateful and could not have done this without y'all. Over 9,000 voters came out to support us and we are all truly humbled,” Kulkarni said in a Facebook post after learning the results.
“When I began this journey, I aimed to bring reason, compassion and decency into our government. People said it was impossible. Many said it was risky. Others said it was pointless, but I knew I had to do something,” he added. “I resigned as a diplomat in the U.S. State Department, where I had served our country for 14 years. I met with and listen to thousands of people in District 22 on how to make that much needed change possible.
“We stand proud and celebrate the beautiful diversity of our unique neighborhoods. We have shown we can bridge our communities and have our voices represented,” he said.
The victory comes days after Kulkarni admitted to being arrested when he was 18 years old in 1997 for having possession of less than a gram of cocaine (see India-West article here).
Kulkarni, according to his campaign website www.kulkarniforcongress.com, is a proven leader who has been serving his family, community and country for his entire life.
He said he will be a strong voice in Congress for returning to "real Texas values."
Among the values Kulkarni said he hopes Texas returns include compassion, reason and decency.
The candidate also said he will fight to make sure that all the victims of Hurricane Harvey get the relief they need; that no one in Texas’ 22nd district is without health care; that the district prioritizes scientific evidence over politics on addressing climate change; and that the inhumane criminal justice gets reformed (see India-West article here).
Kulkarni, 39, a University of Texas graduate, 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 the 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.
Roshin Rowjee was seeking the Republican nomination in Texas' 1st Congressional District, challenging incumbent U.S. Repb. Louie Gohmert. The candidate finished with 2.7 percent of the vote, about 6 percent shy of second and 86 percent behind Gohmert for the top spot.
In the state's 2nd Congressional District, Silky Malik was vying for the Democratic nomination but finished third in the five-candidate pool.
The primary was won handily by Todd Litton, who snagged 52.8 percent of the vote. Malik finished with 9.7 percent of the vote, behind Litton and Darnell Jones who received 22.1 percent.
In the 25th Congressional District, Chetan Panda was also seeking the Democratic nomination. His run ended at the primary, finishing last in the five-person race. His 9 percent of the vote was about 17 percent behind second place finisher Julie Oliver and 24 percent behind first place Chris Perri. Perri and Oliver will go up against each other in the May 22 runoff.
Tahir Javed was hoping to claim the Democratic nomination in Texas' 29th Congressional District. In the seven-candidate race, Javed finished a distant second behind the winner, Sylvia Garcia. Garcia received 63.2 percent of the vote, more than 40 percent ahead of Javed's 20.7 percent.
Other Indian Americans and South Asian Americans were running for lower level offices.
Juli Mathew advanced running unopposed for the Fort Bend County Court-at-Law No. 3 judge position.
Syed S. Ali moved on by running unopposed in the state's 131st Legislative District for state representative on the GOP side.
In the 93rd District, Nisha Mathews came up short in the Democratic primary for state representative, falling to Nancy Bean.
Dinesh Mali failed to earn the Republican nomination for state representative in the 105th District, falling short to Rodney Anderson.
In the 269th District Judge Democratic primary, Shampa Mukerji fell to Cory Sepollo, 66 percent to 34 percent.