Rep. Pete Olson, a Texas Republican who is engrained in a contentious battle for the 22nd Congressional District, won’t say why he called his Indian American Democratic challenger, Sri Preston Kulkarni, an “Indo-American carpetbagger.”
In a video of an Oct. 23 campaign meet-and-greet obtained by HuffPost, Olson reminisced about a political rally President Donald Trump held in Texas.
“Out of nowhere Texans stood up and said, ‘CNN sucks, CNN sucks,’” Olson recalled, prompting laughs from his supporters.
Pressed by a voter on whether those shouts were appropriate, Olson shrugged. “Sometimes we have to have fun,” someone in attendance called out, the report said.
The unnamed constituent persisted with questions, asking Olson why he had called Kulkarni an “Indo-American carpetbagger.”
In a video of a previous campaign stop obtained by CNN, Olson described Kulkarni, who is an Indian American, as a “liberal, liberal, liberal Indo-American who’s a carpetbagger” and questioned whether donations raised for him through the online fundraising site ActBlue were “coming from overseas,” the publication said.
“Why would you mention his race?” the woman demanded.
“I didn’t mention his race. Carpetbagger’s not a race,” Olson responded. During an extended back and forth, Olson never directly addressed why he mentioned Kulkarni’s ethnicity.
A spokesperson for Olson’s campaign did not respond to a HuffPost request for comment.
A video of the interaction, which begins a little after the seven-minute mark, can be seen here.
David Manners-Weber, Kulkarni’s campaign manager, blasted Olson for his recent remarks.
“Actions like these represent the worst of today’s politics ― attacks on the free press, and attempt after attempt to divide us against each other. Texans deserve better, and they are going to get it,” he said in the report.
Kulkarni’s father is an immigrant from India while his mother’s family traces their ancestry back to Sam Houston, one of the founders of Texas.
Kulkarni is a former U.S. diplomat who served in Iraq, Israel, Russia, Taiwan and Jamaica.
Although Olson dubs Kulkarni a carpetbagger ― an out-of-town politician who moves to an area to run for office ― he grew up in Houston at a time when his home was part of Texas’ 22nd congressional district, according to his campaign, it said.
Kulkarni’s creative tactics and strong fundraising ― he has raised $1.1 million, compared with Olson’s $1.4 million haul ― prompted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to add him to the party committee’s vaunted “Red to Blue” list of high-priority districts, the report noted. (See earlier India-West story here.)