A Kingmaker Enters the Arena: Indian American Neil Makhija to Run for Office in Pennsylvania
- He is seeking the Democratic party nomination for an open seat on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.
Last fall, Neil Makhija was knee-deep in efforts to get a number of Indian American candidates win their races in the midterm elections. As executive director of Impact, a national organization dedicated to “ensure that every level of government reflects the diversity and values of the people it serves,” Makhija’s efforts paid off handsomely when several Indian and South Asian American candidates endorsed by Impact have been elected at the local, state and federal level.
Now the 36-year-old Harvard law grad and a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania has decided to enter the electoral arena himself. On Friday he announced his leave of absence from Impact and his joining the race for Commissioner of Montgomery County in his native Pennsylvania.
“After years supporting these inspiring South Asian candidates, I’m excited to follow in their footsteps. Last week, I qualified to be on the ballot for Commissioner of Montgomery County, the third largest county in Pennsylvania with over 865,000 people,” Makhija said.
“During my leave, I will not be involved in strategic or day-to-day operations of Impact. I have also stepped off of my Impact board positions, and will not have any role in endorsements or election activity, which will be run by the Impact Fund’s board and relevant staff members,” the statement read.
This would be his second run for elective office. He lost his race to the Pennsylvania state legislature in 2016.
Makhija is seeking the Democratic party nomination, along with four other candidates, for an open seat on the county commission. The primary will be held on May 16. Primary voters in each party will have the choice to select two candidates to advance to the November general election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“It would be an honor to serve — in particular, on the 100th Anniversary of the United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind and Ozawa v. United States, [two] U.S. Supreme Court cases that stripped Asian Americans of citizenship rights,” Makhija said in a statement issued to the media.
The local media reports appear pretty optimistic about Makhija making history as the first Asian American to be elected to the Board of Commissioners. According to keystone newsroom.com, Makhija has been “touting support from several high-profile leaders in the state Democratic Party, including former Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell, State Sen. Vincent Hughes, and State Rep. Patty Kim.”
“Makhija’s background as an election law professor and voting rights advocate make him the right candidate for the role at a time when elections and voting rights have come under attack,” the report quoted Sen. Hughes as saying.