House Democrats got a boost on Thursday when Texas GOP Rep. Pete Olson announced he wouldn't seek reelection in 2020. In 2018, Olson barely held off Democratic former foreign service officer Sri Preston Kulkarni 51 percent to 47 percent, and a competitive rematch was already brewing. In the second quarter of 2019, Kulkarni out-raised Olson $420,000 to $373,000. Now, this seat will move to the top of Democrats' takeover target list.
The rapidly growing southwest Houston suburbs are undergoing a rapid demographic shift: the 22nd CD, once held by Tom DeLay, is now just 40 percent white (down from 45 percent in 2010) and voted for President Trump by just 52 percent to 44 percent, a third of Mitt Romney's 25 point margin in 2012. The district is 26 percent Hispanic, 19 percent Asian and 12 percent black, and 43 percent of adults hold college degrees, among the highest in the state.
Last week, Olson urged Trump to "disavow" his "go back" comments, but declined to vote to condemn them as racist on the House floor. Kulkarni, who grew up in Fort Bend County and speaks six languages, flew under the radar for most of 2018, but nearly caught Olson napping and will have much more DC support this time. He's the son of an Indian immigrant father and a direct descendant of Sam Houston on his mother's side.
As in suburban Atlanta's GA-07, where Rep. Rob Woodall is retiring, Republicans are hoping they'll end up with a replacement stronger than the incumbent. But they may have a competitive primary on their hands, while Kulkarni consolidates Democratic support. The race moves from Lean Republican to the Toss Up column.
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call