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Indian American Niraj Antani set to become Ohio state Rep

By George Joseph
September 01, 2014 20:36 IST
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If elected, Niraj Antani, 23, will be the second Indian American -- after Jay Goyal, who served 3 terms from 2006 from the 73rd District -- in the Ohio House. George Joseph reports

Niraj Antani, 23, a law student at the University of Dayton, has been selected as the Republican candidate for the 42nd District in the Ohio House of Representatives.

The party central committee chose him in the fourth ballot against 4 candidates, older than him and well-known in party circles.

The seat fell vacant after three-term State Representative Terry Blair, 67, died in office in June. Since Blair had won the party primary in May, it fell on the party to select the next candidate.

Antani got support from across the party, including the Tea Party. Since it is predominantly a Republican district that has not chosen a Democrat for more than 2 decades, Antani is expected to win. During the presidential election, Mitt Romney got 58 percent votes there.

If elected, Antani will be the second Indian American -- after Jay Goyal, who served 3 terms from 2006 from the 73rd District -- in the Ohio House.

In November, Antani will face the Democratic Party’s Patrick Merris, a member of the city council in West Carrollton.

Antani said while his youth might disconcert some, he can bring new blood and a fresh perspective to state government.

“At the end of the day, the greatest generation, they’re going to want someone in the General Assembly to advocate for their children and grandchildren,” he told India Abroad.

“Ever since he was in the third grade, he was interested in public activities,” Antani’s mother Kokila told India Abroad. “Later it seemed to grow to a burning desire for politics.”

Antani said he had interned with state representatives and US Congressmen for years. He chaired Ohio’s Young Americans for Romney coalition in 2012.

Miamisburg Mayor Dick Church, who declined to be the Democratic candidate, knows Antani, having sworn him into his Miamisburg third grade student council, and kept track of him since.

‘He’s a fine young man and I think he would do fine as a state representative,’ Church told the local media.

“People are excited and welcome the diversity,” Antani said. “I have not seen any problem being an Indian-American candidate during the campaign. I am going to fight for my community. I am going to bring my youth and my energy to that fight to make sure that our middle class and our communities are represented in Columbus.” If elected, he said, he would finish law school by attending part time.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, party chairman, said Antani is a bright young man who is a very hard worker and he will do a good job serving the district.

Rob Scott, a Dayton Tea Party co-founder and Kettering city councilman who was unseated as party chairman last year, was quoted as saying that his supporters helped put Antani over the top.

Antani said he is Republican because the party has the same values as the Indian community -- like hard work, respect for elders, self reliance and values -- while Democratic Party believes in dependency.

‘We as Republicans can all agree on many things: We are pro-life, pro-2nd amendment, pro- family, and for low taxes and small government,’ Antani said in his campaign announcement.

‘I can bring new perspectives to the Ohio House and work on issues such as education, skilled manufacturing, and the fight against drugs. In Ohio, only 24.5 per cent of the adult population has a college degree and only 87 percent have a high school diploma.’

The 42nd District has a sizeable number of South Asians including Indian Americans. Antani plans to organise fundraisers with the community.

Niraj Antani’s parents came to the United States in 1987. The family settled first in Washington Township, and then bought a home in Miami Township.

His father Jaimini -- who died in 2010 -- worked for Hewlett-Packard for 35 years.

Antani considers Ohio State Representative Terry Blair his political mentor.

Antani currently clerks for Judge Jeffrey Welbaum on Ohio’s 2nd District Court of Appeals.

Antani is an executive board member of the Dayton International Festival, a volunteer for Dayton Right to Life, and a member of the National Rifle Association.

Image: Republican candidate Niraj Antani

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George Joseph in New York