GOP Rep Who Derisively Noted Opponent’s Ethnicity Is Retiring

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) announced Thursday that he won’t seek reelection, opening up his seat to a competitive race between parties next year. 

The six-term House member said in a statement that he needs more time to prioritize his family’s well-being.

“My amazing wife, Nancy, has carried the lion’s share of parenting our two great children. Her mother has suffered health issues that require more care and attention,” Olson said. “As someone who has long advocated for policies that put our families first, it’s time for me to take my own advice and be a more consistent presence to help our family.”

Olson narrowly won his reelection bid last year against Democratic opponent Sri Preston Kulkarni, a former diplomat whom Olson slammed as a “liberal, liberal, liberal Indo-American who’s a carpetbagger.” He also suggested that donations to Kulkarni, who is of Indian heritage, raised through the online fundraising site ActBlue had come “from overseas.”

Kulkarni announced in April that he was running again for the 22nd District seat in 2020.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has high hopes of flipping Olson’s seat, having added it to its “Red to Blue” list of high-priority districts during the 2018 election. Though Trump won the district by 8 percentage points in 2016, Olson only did so by 4.9 last year.

The district outside Houston is one of the country’s most diverse — and one of Texas’ most vulnerable Republican holdings. Members of Kulkarni’s campaign saw success in 2018 by reaching out to minority communities that typically had lower voter turnout.

“A lot of folks have told me that no one has knocked on their door before, no one has called them before,” Kulkarni told The Texas Tribune last year. “Some of them just grab me and pull me in like a life preserver because they’ve never had somebody come out that way.”

The Texas primary is scheduled for March 3. 

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