Kentucky House District 40 State Representative Nima Kulkarni is the first Indian-American in the Kentucky State legislature and continues the immigration law practice she founded in 2010, Indus Law Firm.
“I was born in India and came to the US with my family when I was 6. The immigrant experience is a strong fabric in my life, and I have seen firsthand how immigrants have shaped and contributed to this country.” Her family’s experience was somewhat unusual. They had many advantages in India: both parents were educated and spoke English, and her father was an executive in the steel industry. They made the sacrifice to come to the United States so that Nima’s brother could attend the de Paul School in Louisville, with the help of Sister Ann Rita Mauck, who founded the school in 1970 for children with dyslexia and other learning differences.
Despite his impressive background and eventually becoming Director of Louisville Metro Office for Globalization, Nima’s father struggled to find work when they first arrived here. Her parents opened a small corner grocery name 8 To 8 at Swan and East Oak Streets in Germantown. “They made helping the community part of their business and always tried to find ways to give back. That really stuck with me and informed my decision to become an attorney.”
Nima graduated from Atherton High School, received her BA and MBA from the University of Louisville, and her Juris Doctorate from the Antioch-UDC School of Law. It was there that she learned how the law could be used to help people, spending 700 clinical hours providing pro bono legal services to the DC community. Nima would eventually found the immigration non-profit New Americans Initiative and serve on the Community Foundation of Louisville’s board, among others. She joined Emerge Kentucky in 2012 as an “academic exercise” to follow her interest in policy work and learn what it takes to run for office. Although she did not file for office until 2018, Representative Kulkarni “called on that network of women for support” as she ran for office and subsequently defeated a 20-year incumbent Democrat.
“You have to find that balance between wanting to change the world versus understanding the value of compromise. You have to remember why you’re there and know the difference between campaigning and legislating. Never lose sight of why you ran in the first place, but sometimes you have to do what it takes to make progress, however small.” Representative Kulkarni is motivated by her constituents, who have a wide range of experiences and opinions, but who all want someone who will show up in Frankfort and work for them. “They just wanted to know what I would do for them and that I wasn’t going up there with my own agenda. In Frankfort, I take time helping other legislators understand a different perspective and strive to change hearts and minds. I try to find a way to connect the dots with a certain level of inter- sectionality that I bring to the table.”
You have to find that balance between wanting to change the world versus understanding the value of compromise. You have to remember why you’re there and know the difference between campaigning and legislating. Never lose sight of why you ran in the first place, but sometimes you have to do what it takes to make progress, however small.
– NIMA KULKARNI
As for her legislative priorities, Representative Kulkarni fights for “good-paying jobs, safe communities, strong public schools, and affordable healthcare for all Kentuckians.” She is a primary sponsor of House Bills on overpayment debt waivers for unemployment insurance, unemployment insurance benefits for domestic violence victims, and an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) bill that “equalizes the legal fight over speech that is in the public interest.” House committee memberships include Economic Development and Judiciary. Caucus memberships are Kentucky Black Legislative, Louisville Metropolitan, Bourbon Trail, Women’s, and Kentucky Nonprofit.
Whether you are a D40 constituent or not, you can support Representative Kulkarni’s important work in the following ways:
Talk to her! Reach out with interests or concerns by calling or emailing LRC: 502-564-8100 ext. 603 and Nima.Kulkarni@lrc.ky.gov.
Donate to her reelection campaign at votenima.com.
Run for office!
“Representation matters. People need to understand the role they can play. Shifting the landscape and the face of the electorate happens one race at a time. We have to take our destinies in hand to change the narrative.”