What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

What demographic shifts in this Texas county say about electoral dynamics

With Election Day just over three weeks away, polls suggest congressional Republicans are struggling in suburban areas of the country. At the same time, Democrats are trying to take advantage of changing demographics in these districts. One such example is the diverse county of Fort Bend, Texas, a longtime GOP stronghold that is now competitive. Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    With Americans voting across the country and Election Day three weeks from tomorrow, it is worth reminding there's more than the presidency at stake. Polls continue to show the Senate map tilting in favor of Democrats and Republicans struggling in many suburbs.

    So, Democrats are trying to expand the battlefield to take advantage of changing demographics in some traditionally red districts.

    One example is southwest of Houston in the diverse county of Fort Bend, Texas, where what has been a longtime GOP stronghold, the state's 22nd Congressional District, is now competitive.

    Andrew Schneider of Houston Public Media takes a look.

  • Andrew Schneider:

    Fort Bend County makes up the lion's share of Texas' 22nd Congressional District. Since 2009, it's been represented by Pete Olson, who regularly won double-digit landslides, that is, until 2018, when he eked out a five-point win over this man.

    Sri Preston Kulkarni is a 14-year veteran of the Foreign Service. He's once again the Democratic nominee. But, this time, he's running for an open seat. Pete Olson is retiring. And most analysts rate Texas' 22nd as a tossup.

  • Sri Preston Kulkarni:

    We are campaigning in 27 different languages, trying to run the most inclusive campaign ever in Texas history.

  • Andrew Schneider:

    Kulkarni was born in 1978, two years after the last time Democrats carried Texas in a presidential election. The prime issues of his campaign are fighting the pandemic and protecting health care. But he also focuses on the need to help small businesses and reopen schools safely, issues that could help him appeal to independents and dissatisfied Republicans.

  • Sri Preston Kulkarni:

    We have problems with our economy. One in six small businesses here have failed this year alone. We have problems with education. Our families are concerned that their children aren't going to get a proper education this year if we don't do something about the coronavirus.

  • Andrew Schneider:

    We repeatedly sought an interview with Kulkarni's Republican opponent, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, but received no response.

    But we spoke with one of Nehls' supporters, small business owner Ramana Reddy. A native of Hyderabad, India, Reddy is also planning to vote for President Trump.

  • Ramana Reddy:

    The Democratic Party, what I felt and I still strongly feel about it is, they want to appease the minorities, rather than create jobs and help the minorities to go up the ladder.

  • Andrew Schneider:

    Most demographers believe it's only a matter of decades before most of Texas looks like Fort Bend. The question is how long before the state's politics follow.

    If and when the state does turn blue, it's likely to be because of places like Fort Bend County.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Andrew Schneider in Sugar Land, Texas.

Listen to this Segment