WASHINGTON, D.C.— Ohio State Rep. Niraj Antani, 28, one of 21 individuals recognized by the Government of India with an award in observation of Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD), Jan. 9, which commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Mumbai, has said that he’s elated that as the youngest and only millennial public official among those honored, and hopes that it becomes a tradition going forward.
Antani, who is serving his third term in the Ohio legislature, who was recognized for his political role in advancing U.S.-India relations as a state lawmaker on Jan. 9 at the Indian Consulate in New York, along with the others singled out for their contributions in various spheres both in the United States and toward the development of India—their country of origin — said, “I am honored to have been recognized on Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas,” and acknowledged, “This accomplishment does not come without the backing of strength and success in the Indian American community across the United States.”
Declaring that “I am proud to be the youngest Indian American elected official in the United States.” Antani told India Abroad that in this regard, “It truly is an honor to have been recognized, especially as one of the youngest of the awardees.”
He argued that there has always been “much discussion regarding the next generation of Indian Americans,” and said that “as the youngest Indian American elected official in the United States, I see it as my duty to carry the torch for our generation.”
And, Antani, a Republican, predicted, “As the Indian American community continues to develop and advance in the United States, we will only see greater achievements,” by millennials such as him and others, including the generations to follow, including those who follow in his path of politics and political activism and running for public office.
In terms of his PBD honor, Antanithanked India Consul General in N.Y. Sandeep Chakravorty“for this recognition.”
Antani, considered a rising star in GOP circles, on Jan. 30, 2019, announced that he will run for state Senator in the 2020 election from District 6 to replace term-limited incumbent Peggy Lehner, whom he once interned for.
The Miamisburg, Ohio-born and raised Antani, declaring his intent to advance to the state Senate, a natural springboard to making a future bid for national office, said, “Having been born and raised in this community, I am running for state Senator to ensure every Ohioan who works for it has the opportunity to achieve their American Dream.”
“I will lay out a vision throughout this campaign to solve the many great challenges our community and state face,’ he said.
Besides his own constituency of Miamisburg, the 6th Senate District covers most of the Montgomery County suburban areas including Kettering, Oakwood, Riverside, Huber Heights, Vandalia, Brookville, Centerville, Moraine and Germantown. It also includes some parts of east and south Dayton.
At the time, Antani old India Abroad that what prompted him to run for this state Senate seat was because “it’s an important opportunity for not only my service to the community, but also to make history as the first Indian American state Senator in Ohio.”
He has since exuded confidence of being elected, and has said it would also make him “the highest-ranking ever official in Ohio of Indian American descent.”
Antani acknowledged that state Senate seat in the district, which was Republican leaning would be decided by the March 2020 primary and said he was the first to throw his hat into the ring.
Besides Antani, the two other Republicans vying for the seat are Greg Robinson and Rachel Selby, while Mark Fogel and Albert Griggs are the two Democrats who have filed. The seat is left open because Lehner, who was a big winner by 32 percent in 2016, is term-limited.
The term limit for the Ohio Senate is two four-year terms, and for the state House of Representatives is four two-year terms, both for a total of eight years.
The Ohio Senate is the upper chamber of the Ohio General Assembly, the legislative body of the State of Ohio, making all state laws for Ohio’s 11.5 million citizens. Each of the 33 State Senators in Ohio represent approximately 360,000 Ohioans.
Antani, now with his sights set on the state Senate, and since declaring his intent has been not only door knocking in his district, but also traveling across the country meeting with Indian American community groups and long-term Indian American GOP fund-raisers to garner the more than about the half a million dollars to run a viable campaign and has said that the Indian American community both in District 6 and across the state and country who are enthused by his decision to run are hoping for “as I’ve said, to become the first Indian American state Senator in Ohio’s history.”
In an earlier interview with India Abroad, asked if he was seeking Lehner’s endorsement, Antani said, “Her and I are in discussion, but right now she is going to stay publicly neutral. But her and I have a great relationship.”
“I actually interned for her when she was a state Representative,” he said.
Antani said he did not expect any support or funding from the state GOP party because they are likely “to stay neutral through the primary. So, we have to do it all on our own.”
He acknowledged that he now has significant name recognition in the Indian American community in Ohio — a presidential swing state, which would be even more important in 2020 — and also across the country “and the Indian American community support has been vital for my success.”
“I am proud to be a voice for all Indian Americans and hopefully will count on their support for the campaign,” he said.
Antani said that as a millennial Indian American role model his campaign would be “about the future of the Indian American community in the United States.”
He argued that the “prior Indian American immigrant generation set the foundation –they were the founders if you will—and it’s my job to carry on their legacy for their children and grandchildren.”
“We have to worry about what America looks like for the next generation of Indian Americans,” Antani said, “and as the youngest-elected Indian American official in the country, I am at the forefront of that.”
Often cited as the youngest member of the Ohio State Assembly, being elected at age 23, from the Dayton 42nd District constituency in 2014 and then being unanimously re-elected since, Antani, cut his teeth in politics, interning for US Congressman Mike Turner is his district office in Dayton, after which he was bitten by the public service bug in the political arena.
In January 2015, he was named by the conservative Newsmax media organization, which has a popular online website, magazine and television channel, as the second most influential Republican under 30 in the US. This was a part of their 30 most influential Republicans 30 and under list.
Antani was also named to Forbes Magazine’s list of the top ‘30 Under 30’ people in the United States for Law and Politics in 2015, and also named to the ‘Top 30 Conservatives Under Age 30 in the United States’ list by Red Alert Politics, another influential conservative website.
By Thanksgiving Day last year, he said his campaign had knocked on 60,000 doors working with over 23 interns and several other campaign workers.
In an e-mail blast to his supporters and donors, he said, “Thanks to your support, we have been able to put together an unparalleled grassroots campaign, with a full time campaign manager and over 25 summer and fall interns, while using national firms to create the world-class literature we give to voters at doors and for our 21st Century door to door data and mobile application,” Antani said, and noted, “This has allowed us to knock on the 60,000 doors so far, which has let us talk to over 11,000 voters at their door.”
According to 2010 Census data quoted by Ballotpedia, there were a total of 336,772 residents in Ohio’s State Senate District 6.
An alumnus of State Ohio University and the University of Dayton School of Law from where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and a JD respectively, Antani had already decided before graduating in 2012 that he was going to run for state office from his hometown, and in 2014 won by an overwhelming margin of 64.5 percent of the vote and burying his Democratic opponent Patrick Merris for the 42nd District seat, which covers most of Southern Montgomery County. And, in 2013, the Montgomery County Republican Party named him the‘Republican Man of the Year.’