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Rep. Pete Olson ahead in early count over Kulkarni in Congressional District 22

November 7, 2018 GMT

U.S. Rep. Pete Olson has jumped ahead to an early lead over his Democratic challenger Sri Preston Kulkarni in the 22nd congressional district.

The preliminary results follow an unusually pitched campaign battle for the five-term Republican incumbent. Olson, a 55-year-old former Navy pilot, easily won his last four re-elections.

At the start of the year, few saw the 22nd as a battleground. But the district, which includes Fort Bend, Brazoria and part of southern Harris County, has grown more than any congressional district in the state, swelling to more than 881,000, according to the U.S. Census. And foreign-born residents make up a large portion of that growth.

The changing demographics have been seen to give Kulkarni a boost. The 39-year-old has relied heavily on his ability to connect with the district’s diverse population to give Democrats hope that he could pull off an upset in the district. About 20 percent of the population in the 22nd is of Asian heritage — more than any other district in Texas. Kulkarni speaks a half-dozen languages, including Hindi, Hebrew and Russian.

National Democrats promised help for Kulkarni after his surprise showing.