“As the son of an immigrant and descendant of Sam Houston, Sri Preston Kulkarni embodies the future of Texas. As a national security expert, Sri served our country overseas under presidents of both parties and brought people together to get things done. While Sri represents service at its finest, Troy Nehls is politics at its worst. After being fired as a police officer for destroying evidence, Nehls is the worst kind of divider politician who downplayed the coronavirus crisis as it ravaged the community he was supposed to protect. In contrast, Sri Preston Kulkarni is the leader who will unite his community after he flips Texas’ 22nd District in November.” – DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos
To: Interested Parties
From: Avery Jaffe, DCCC Regional Press Secretary
Date: July 14, 2020
Subject: The Case Against Troy Nehls
The results of tonight’s Republican runoff make it clear: Texas’ 22nd Congressional District is a prime pick-up opportunity for Democrats in November.
The GOP primary in TX-22 veered so far right it saw a Bush defeated in Texas for the first time in 42 years. Now, contrary to the repeated wishes of national party leaders, Republicans have nominated fired Fort Bend County police officer Troy Nehls as their standard-bearer in a rapidly changing majority-minority district home to nearly 1 million residents.
Nehls’ busted-up, rambling wreck of a campaign has sputtered across the finish line with its engine on fire following a large-scale TV advertising campaign brutally attacking Nehls’ troubling record on sex trafficking as sheriff of Fort Bend County.
With no discernible campaign structure other than himself and his larger-than-him cardboard cutout, Nehls’ fearsome campaign war chest of $33,492 won’t be enough to campaign in the pricey Houston media market without a Washington special interest bailout rivaling the Berlin Airlift, but is just enough to buy Nehls a base-model Toyota Sienna minivan and a couple of pallets of yard signs.
Nehls will face 2018 Democratic nominee and former foreign service officer Sri Preston Kulkarni in the general election, whose four-month head start after winning the March primary outright has positioned him to win in November. Kulkarni’s strong challenge in 2018 nearly unseated Congressman Pete Olson and drove him into an early retirement facing a 2020 rematch.
With an eye-popping Q2 haul of more than $950,000 Kulkarni not only shattered TX-22’s all-time record set by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, but also raised more in a single day than Nehls raised all quarter. Kulkarni has established himself as a strong fundraiser, grassroots organizer and compelling candidate with the right priorities for TX-22. Beyond his record of service and demonstrated ability to build a winning campaign infrastructure, Kulkarni has an authentic message and deep ties to the diverse communities he aims to serve.
Nehls enters the general election with coronavirus spiking across his community after he all-but-declared victory in Fort Bend and opposed a commonsense public health order to wear masks and reports of coronavirus infecting inmates and staff at his jail after bragging he had “not a single positive test. NOT ONE” in his jail.
There’s a clear contrast in this election: While fired cop Troy Nehls is a divider who abuses his power in service of his political career, Sri Preston Kulkarni is a public servant who brings people together. With unprecedented grassroots energy, Kulkarni’s proven record as a strong campaigner and Nehls’ troubling record and status as a health care opponent, Democrats are in an excellent position to flip this seat.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“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.” [Cook Political Report, 7/25/19]
ED BOARD: “A former Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Department of State, Kulkarni is the son of an immigrant father and a mother whose family descends from Sam Houston. That mix of insider and outsider perspectives has served him well in a career that involved compromise and dialogue with hostile parties all over the world. He seems to prioritize civility and is open to finding common ground with those who differ from him ideologically.” [Houston Chronicle, 2/19/20]
“In his 2018 run for an immigrant-heavy, suburban Houston House seat, Sri Preston Kulkarni drew attention for his unorthodox effort to diversify his campaign staff. His volunteers and staff could reach voters in 15 languages; he hopes to double that to 30 languages this time. Primary turnout in the district grew from about 29,000 to over 65,000, a 110 percent increase. [Politico, 3/12/20]
“Nehls was fired by the Richmond (Texas) Police Department for reasons including destruction of evidence. Nehls was also charged with underage drinking and obstructing an officer in 1988. He later applied for a job with the Ford Bend ISD Police Department, signing a form saying he’d never been charged with a crime.” [Houston Public Media, 12/8/17]
“Nehls and his office have notoriously denied reports of human trafficking being as widespread a problem as other area law enforcement have said it is” [Houston Chronicle, 4/12/19]
“Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls has said there is little evidence of human trafficking within the county” [Houston Chronicle 1/5/20]
“A Fort Bend County jail inmate has contracted COVID-19 and so have six jailers, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department reported.” [Fort Bend Herald, 6/25/20]
HEADLINE: “Father: Fort Bend volunteer at a juvenile detention center sexually abused his son hundreds of times under video surveillance” [Houston Chronicle 2/11/19]
HEADLINE: Family sues Fort Bend officials for failing to check cells day of jail suicide [Houston Chronicle, 9/19/17]
HEADLINE: “Officials: county jail in violation of minimum jail standards” [Fort Bend Herald, 11/12/15]
HEADLINE: “Nehls campaign low on money, report reveals” [Fort Bend Herald, 4/20/20]
HEADLINE: “Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls did not attend human trafficking meeting ahead of runoff” [KHOU-Ch. 11, 7/9/20]
Fired Cop Troy Nehls: A Total Failure for Texas Families
A DISASTROUS PRIMARY AND A RUINED REPUTATION
Washington Republicans have spent literal years attempting to stave off a disastrous Troy Nehls run for Congress in TX-22.
When Nehls made noise about an intra-party challenge to Congressman Pete Olson in 2017, Olson’s team responded by leaking a damning dossier on Nehls’ criminality and incompetence to elbow Nehls out of a campaign.
With Congressman Olson’s shock retirement and knowing Nehls was a lock to enter the race, Washington Republicans scrambled to recruit around Nehls and find a viable replacement to Olson. Former Houston baseball star Roger Clemens recorded an unofficial 4,623rd career strikeout when he publicly declined Washington Republicans’ recruiting efforts. In the absence of a strong successor to Olson, the TX-22 GOP primary became a clown car of more than a dozen also-rans.
Then came Washington Republicans’ vaunted recruit, Pierce Bush, whose 11th-hour entrance into the TX-22 GOP contest marked the high point of his disastrous short-lived campaign. (Bush’s chief strategist just so happened to be Rep. Olson’s top consultant at the time of the Nehls oppo dump in 2017.)
Instead, Republicans got 133 days of a resource-depleting runoff between fired cop Troy Nehls and zillionaire self-funder Kathaleen Wall, whose racist “Chinese Virus” television ad marked the latest in a long string of string of local race-related scandals toxifying the GOP brand in a district where Asian Americans represent roughly 20 percent of the electorate – and where voters of color are set to turn out in record numbers in November. (Naturally, Nehls never said a word about it.)
Worst of all for Nehls were the final few weeks of the Republican runoff, that saw Wall unleash hell on him and Nehls’ indefensible decision to attack a sex trafficking survivor on social media, dispatching one of his lieutenants to go after the survivor’s family and attend a human trafficking roundtable he skipped out on to go campaign.
A FAILURE ON HEALTH CARE AND CORONAVIRUS
Troy Nehls put lives in danger by downplaying the pandemic, opposing commonsense public health guidelines and taking an April victory lap before his community had even seen the worst of the virus.
Now, COVID-19 cases in TX-22 are reaching their highest level since the pandemic began and Fort Bend County alone has passed 4,000 cases.
Even worse, Nehls would be a rubber stamp for President Trump’s reckless efforts to raise the cost of health care and strip away coverage from Texans with pre-existing conditions. Nehls would be a disaster for Texas women’s health care: he’s an anti-choice hardliner calling to defund Planned Parenthood.
Nehls is unambiguous in his support for the budget-busting taxpayer-funded giveaway to corporate drugmakers, saying the handouts “have been a good thing. I hope they become permanent and I think it’s good for this country. Absolutely.”
The Trump administration itself says Nehls’ “permanent” support for the GOP tax bill means he supports tearing down protections for pre-existing conditions along with the entire Affordable Care Act, actions that are especially despicable amid the coronavirus crisis.
A look back at the past few months reveals Troy Nehls was dead wrong about the pandemic. On April 22, Nehls went out of his way to tell constituents that orders requiring facial coverings were “unnecessary, unconstitutional, and unAmerican” – an irresponsible view now contradicted even by Texas’ Republican governor.
Nehls also bragged he had “not a single positive test. NOT ONE” in his Fort Bend County jail. Now, COVID-19 has infected at least six Fort Bend County jail staff and at least one inmate.
Tellingly, the Fort Bend Independent revealed that Nehls’ department was “not actively” enforcing Fort Bend County’s mask order.
All while coronavirus is raging across TX-22 and cases in his county are surging to their highest level since the pandemic began.
Nehls’ record stands in stark contrast to Sri Preston Kulkarni’s lived experience on health care.
When Sri’s father was dying from cancer, his family was brought to the brink of bankruptcy after incurring thousands of dollars in medical bills for his treatment. Sri left the University of Texas to come home and help care for his dad, learning first-hand what it was like for a family to struggle to afford health care.
In Congress, Sri will work to fix our health care system to make quality, affordable care a reality for everyone. He’ll fight to protect women’s health care, lower the cost of prescription drugs and always protect Texans with pre-existing conditions.
FAILING TEXAS FAMILIES, PUTTING HIMSELF ABOVE THE LAW
Troy Nehls’ lengthy letter of termination from a Fort Bend County police department lists 19 offenses, including mishandling and destroying evidence, improper arrests, insubordination, repeatedly going MIA while on duty and working a second job without authorization.
The termination letter, along with evidence that Nehls lied about his criminal record on a job application, were revealed via a damning dossier on Nehls that emerged as Nehls was considering an intra-party challenge to Congressman Olson. Funny coincidence.
Beyond his significant personal failings, the way Sheriff Nehls runs his department has revealed an inability to keep safe those whom he has sworn to protect and serve.
Nehls begins the general election with questions swirling over his heavily scrutinized record on sex trafficking, after he repeatedly downplayed the issue in his county. Now, Nehls has finally acknowledged the issue by recently adding a few sentences to his campaign website – cold comfort to the families who felt unheard by Nehls’ department.
In his first three years as sheriff, 268 of his employees quit: a turnover of more than 35 percent of the department’s entire staff. Nehls’ excuse for the high turnover on his watch? Many of them left because he’s paying them a “low wage.”
Nehls was sued by the father of a teen who said officials at Nehls’ juvenile detention center failed to protect his son from sexual assault by a volunteer.
While Nehls’ department was on “official notice” for “an atrocious record” of preventing jail suicides, another Fort Bend County detainee committed suicide – and Nehls was sued by the man’s father. The state ultimately found Nehls’ jail violated Texas’ minimum jail standards.
Now Nehls is campaigning for Congress on the taxpayer’s dime after clumsily side-stepping Texas’ resign-to-run law in order to maintain the privilege of his taxpayer-funded $127,231 annual salary and sheriff’s uniform.
All this despite citing Texas’ resign-to-run law in 2017 – Nehls knows exactly what the rules are. It’s why Nehls launched a phony “exploratory committee” in summer 2019 with all the subtlety of a dump truck and waited until early December to “announce” his “decision” in order to keep living off taxpayers as he seeks his next office.
Equally as curious is Nehls’ future campaign manager repeatedly defending him on social media months before Nehls could legally have decided to have run for Congress without resigning his post.
On the other hand, national security expert Sri Preston Kulkarni served honorably during his 14 years advancing American values overseas in places like Jerusalem, Iraq and Russia. After bringing people together to negotiate in a warzone between groups in conflict, Sri is ready to bridge the partisan divide that is tearing America apart and focus on working together to solve the problems that Texans face every day: the high cost of health care, providing a quality education for our children, and growing an economy that works for all of us.
And rather than skirting the law to cash a taxpayer-funded check like Troy Nehls, Sri resigned from the foreign service to come back home to help empower communities who are the future of Texas.
PATH TO VICTORY
“It’s hard to overstate how fast the southwest Houston suburbs are changing,” the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman wrote after Congressman Pete Olson’s surprise retirement rocketed TX-22 up political analysts’ charts as a top-tier toss-up open seat. The 22nd District “was 45% white in 2010, but just 40% white in 2017. It voted for Mitt Romney by 25% in 2012, but for Trump by just 8% in 2016.”
At nearly 1 million residents, TX-22 is the most populous individual congressional district in America — only the at-large seats in Montana and Delaware are larger.
Over the past decade, the region has swelled in size, transforming from a bastion of suburban Houston conservatives to an enclave of tens of thousands of newfound Texans arriving from around the United States and across the globe. That’s why with a quarter of its population identifying as immigrants, TX-22 holds the current record for the fastest-growing citizen voting age population of any congressional district in the country.
And with a population that’s 26 percent Hispanic, 19 percent Asian American and Pacific Islander and 12 percent Black per the Cook Political Report, TX-22 now stands as one of America’s most diverse districts and a majority-minority seat.
Not bad for a congressional district that Tom DeLay once literally drew for himself.
Additionally, CNN reports that “nearly 46% of the district’s residents hold at least a four-year college degree,” placing it “among the highest shares in the state,” per Cook and in line with other college-heavy districts where Democrats have made significant inroads since 2016.
In 2018, Sri Preston Kulkarni came within 4.9 percent – 14,000 votes – of flipping this seat and unseating Congressman Pete Olson. In 2019, Olson announced his retirement after being outraised by Kulkarni’s re-match effort.
With gangbusters population growth on near decade-old lines, and an inspiring candidate in national security expert Sri Preston Kulkarni whose campaign is engaging with Texans in 21 different languages, Texas’ 22nd Congressional District is primed to flip in 2020.