U.S. House District 22 candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni, a Democrat, has challenged Republican rival Troy Nehls to a debate in a move to give a spark to a mostly quiet campaign.
The Kulkarni campaign sent out a press release stating that their candidate has agreed to participate in four debates and public forums in the district, including a debate sponsored by Houston Public Media and a forum by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce.
Now the campaign is challenging Nehls to participate in the debates, claiming that his campaign has been avoiding the public for the last two months.
“We’re facing a health care and economic crisis and the stakes in this election have never been higher,” Kulkarni campaign manager Allen Chen said in a statement. “Voters deserve to know where candidates stand on the issues, but Texans have no idea what Troy Nehls believes and he hasn’t even held a public event in 55 days.
“After he downplayed the pandemic and let coronavirus infect his own employees, Troy Nehls is hiding because he knows he has no answers for Texans who want to send their kids back to school safely and for small businesses who want to get back to work with the virus under control.”
The Herald has reached out to Nehls campaign manager Daniel Gribble and advisor Nick Maddux for a response, but didn’t hear back from either.
Debates could be a key factor in a House race that has been rated a toss-up. The last poll conducted in July saw Kulkarni, the Democratic nominee, tied with Nehls, the Republican nominee, at 39%.
The winner will replace current Rep. Pete Olson, who will retire in January.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Kulkarni has been conducting virtual events to engage voters. Last week, the campaign held 21 phone banks in 27 different languages, as Kulkarni looks to maintain his diverse pool of voters.
But Nehls is also looking to capitalize on the district’s wide diversity. On his Facebook page, Nehls is pictured having face-to-face meetings with Asian Americans and with the local Muslim community.
“I’ve seen their love for country and humanity and have made many relationships in the Muslim American community as Sheriff of Fort Bend County,” Nehls wrote on Facebook. “I look forward to giving a voice to them and all who call District 22 home in Congress.”