HOUSTON - As political action committees and campaigns carpet bomb the October airwaves with negative allegations aimed at muddying up the opposition, it can be tough for voters to decipher what's spin and what's not.
Take the attack ad funded by a Republican Super PAC targeting Sri Kulkarni, the Democratic candidate for Congressional District 22.
“What do we really know about Sri Kulkarni….his cocaine arrest?” asks the ad’s narrator.
According to court records, Kulkarni was arrested 23 years ago for possession of less than one gram. The charge was ultimately dismissed after two years of probation.
FOX 26 asked the candidate to address the issue.
“I think what it shows more than anything else, is that we are winning because the one thing our opponents don't want to talk about is health care, about the pandemic itself, and if they want to remind people that when I was 18 years old I was arrested when my father was going through cancer and I was taking him back and forth to MD Anderson and that my family was on the point of bankruptcy, I am happy to talk about that year in my life, because that is something people are going through across this state and across this country,” said Kulkarni.
It bears mentioning Kulkarni qualified for a top-secret security clearance with the State Department during his 14-year diplomatic career.
On the flip side of the hotly contested race, Kulkarni's opponent, Republican Troy Nehls has also come under fire for an issue two decades deep in his past.
“It's all public record. Troy Nehls was fired from a Texas Police Department after 20 violations,” says the ad’s narrator.
According to this City of Richmond document from 1998, the termination claim by the House Majority PAC is true, but candidate Nehls says it's hardly the whole story.
“It was small-town politics. I got caught up in the small-town politics. The Chief of police that hired me that I was working for retired. I supported a different individual for the Chief's job, thought he would keep the City of Richmond safe and he wasn't chosen. Within a year of that, I was terminated. The Chief of Police that signed that termination has endorsed me in this race. He has supported me publically as well as financially,” said Nehls.
FOX 26 has obtained a statement from former Richmond Police Chief Bill Whitworth.
“Using the termination I issued Troy Nehls over 22 years ago as an indictment on his character or qualifications to be the next Congressman is ridiculous. Sheriff Nehls is a man of integrity and professionalism and has served Fort Bend County with honor and distinction. We’ve always had a great working relationship and he’s a good man who doesn’t deserve these nasty attacks," said Whitworth.
Voters should also know none of the alleged violations by Nehls drew criminal prosecution or impacted his certification as a Peace Officer.
In 1997, a matter of months prior to his termination, Nehls was named "Police Officer of the Year" after spearheading the successful shutdown of a notorious drug trafficking location known as 'Mud Alley.'
Both ads involve incidents in the candidates’ lives that occurred 20 plus years ago and are likely to have little or no impact on how either would represent Texas-22 in the U.S. Congress.