Democrats are predicted to pick up anywhere from 15 to 25 seats in the House, further strengthening the majority they established in 2006. That year, perhaps the biggest sign that the winds were shifting came in suburban Houston, when 11-term Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay was indicted and Democrat Nick Lampson won the seat. Lampson is struggling to retain the seat next month--according to the latest Cook Political Report the race is a toss-up--and if he does lose the seat, to former Navy pilot Pete Olson, it will likely be seen by the GOP as a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy environment.
I grew up in Houston and know plenty of desis who started moving to Sugar Land (which is in the district) in the late 70s, building big houses on tony cul-de-sacs. Now, it seems those same people may hold the key to the race. Anup Kaphle, SAJAforum contributor and a new media fellow at The Atlantic, has collaborated on a multimedia piece for National Journal with Jonathan Maher, examining how South Asians may help decide the election. The project was funded by News 21, an initiative of the Carnegie and Knight foundations. From "Lampson courts both Cowboys and Indians":
But Democrats see hope in the area's changing demographics: The 22nd now boasts a much more diverse constituency than it did when DeLay was first elected. White voters still make up a majority, at 60 percent, but there are also sizable communities of Latinos, African-Americans and, more recently, South Asians. Fort Bend County, in the southwest suburbs of Houston, boasts the state's highest percentage of Asian residents, according to the Almanac of American Politics.
South Asians now make up between 4 percent and 5 percent of the district's population, attracting the attention of Democrats in part because of their perceived tendency to register in high numbers. Unlike black and Latino voters, South Asians don't have a long history with either party. But many are moving toward the Democrats, in part because of objections to the GOP's position on immigration, something that the party hopes will be enough to put Lampson over the top.
The accompanying video is definitely worth watching. It shows Lampson at a fundraiser--one of "a score of South Asian events" he's attended in the last couple years. Comedian Paul Verghese performs a set, and later, as an MC speaks in Hindi and draws laughs, Lampson is shown just sitting and waiting it out. It's a great scene, telling us just how much the political landscape has changed, that these are the swing voters in a former Republican stronghold: men in turbans, women in burkhas.
Some of the local players interviewed for the piece:
- Farrukh Shamsi of the Texas Democratic Party
- Jagat Kamdar of the Indo-American PAC
- Vijay Bhuchar, Pratham
- Mustafa Tameez, Outreach Strategists