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Texas: Two Asian American novice politicians to challenge Republican incumbents

Gina Ortiz Jones is the Democra’ nominee for Texas’ 23rd Congressional District.

Two Asian Americans won their party’s nomination in Tuesday’s Texas run-off elections.

Austin’s Gina Ortiz Jones, 37, and Houston’s Sri Preston Kulkarni, 36, topped the Democratic Party contests in the 23rd and 22nd Congressional Districts, respectively.

Ortiz Jones, a Filipina American, beat Rick Trevino, a former high school teacher, with more than 17,000 votes, or more than twice as many as Trevino.

“Gina will be a strong, principled representative for hardworking, middle class Texans and these results show her grassroots campaign is building momentum and will be highly competitive in November,” said Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a statement. 

If she wins in November against Republican Rep. Will Hurd, Ortiz Jones will be the first lesbian, first Iraq War veteran and first Filipina American to represent Texas in Congress.

Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, worked as a federal employee under two presidents of both parties. She thought she could continue working in the Trump administration but quit when she saw the policies he was implementing.

Ortiz Jones’ November opponent is well-financed and has served in Congress for two terms. District 23 leans Republican but has elected Democrats in the past. In 2016, the district went for Hillary Clinton. The district has been targeted by the Democratic Party as one that could flip to their ranks.
Kulkami beat his Democratic rival almost two-to-one, but the road ahead for Kulkami in District 22 will be even tougher.

The Indian American, a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, will try to upset five-term GOP Rep. Pete Olson this November.


Sri Preston Kulkami is challenging an incumbent to represent the 22 District in Texas.


Trump carried the district by 8 points in 2016, but it is also one of the most diverse districts in Texas, so immigration may be a big issue in November. In addition, Santa Fe High School where 10 people were killed last week, is a Houston suburb. The shooting will likely make gun control, anathema to Republicans, an issue in the 22nd.

“We can’t actually do our job and we can’t represent America when the government is not representing America. If this is what America represents, then I need to change that,” said Kulkami.

“As we look ahead, let us remember what is at stake this fall. We are fighting for the students who fear gun terror in their schools; we are fighting for immigrant families who are seeking the American Dream; we are fighting for the teachers and everyday heroes struggling to support their families. Tonight we celebrate, but tomorrow we strive forward to bring decency back to our country,” he said.

In both districts, Democrats hope that the anti-Trump sentiment that spurred enthusiasm among their volunteers and voters and the momentum generated by their campaigns will continue into November. 
Democrats have done a better job of registering voters for the Primary and Runoff. That effort will most likely intensify until Aug. 20, the last day for voter registration.
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