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Neil Makhija wins Democratic nomination for Montgomery County Commissioner

If he wins the general election this fall, Makhija will be the first Asian American and first Indian American to serve as commissioner in Montgomery County, a heavily-AAPI populated district.

Public interest lawyer Neil Makhija has secured the Democratic nomination for a seat on the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Commission. (campaign website photo)

Neil Makhija emerged victorious from a May 16 primary election, securing the Democratic nomination for the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania commissioner’s seat.

Five Democrats and three Republicans are vying for two open spots on the three-member Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. Voters from each party were allowed to pick two candidates in the primary election. Makhija and Jamila Winder — who was appointed to the board earlier this year — won the Democratic nominations, while businessman Tom DiBello and Liz Ferry secured the Republican Party’s nominations. All four candidates now head to the Nov. 7 general election. The top two vote-getters will secure the open Commissioners’ seats.

Maryland Lt. Governor Aruna Miller tweeted: “Congratulations to my friend, Neil Makhija, on becoming the Democratic nominee for  Montgomery County Commissioner!” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, also congratulated Makhija in a tweet.

Makhija has received the critical endorsement of Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pennsylvania.

Candidate Neil Makhija and his wife, Dr. Rachel Nash, cast their ballots May 16. (Twitter photo)

If he wins his race, Makhija will be the first Asian American and first Indian American to serve as commissioner in Montgomery County. Almost one-third of the residents of Montgomery County are Asian Americans.

If he wins, Makhija will also oversee elections in the county during the critical 2024 Presidential election. “In 2024, expect (former President Donald) Trump or (Florida Governor Ron) DeSantis to relentlessly attack Pennsylvanians’ right to vote,” he stated on his campaign website, adding that he is the only candidate capable of protecting the right to vote.

Makhija — who is taking a leave from his role as executive director of Indian American IMPACT — had not returned a request for comment by press time May 17. But in a May 17 letter to supporters, the candidate wrote: “At a time when our fundamental rights and democracy itself are on the line, voters of Montgomery County chose a candidate who will fight to protect democratic principles and values.”

“I am incredibly grateful and  humbled by the voters' faith in our vision for a proactive approach to protecting our voting rights, standing up to Republicans in Harrisburg to keep guns off our streets, and working to ensure that Montgomery County remains a great place to live and raise a family for people of all walks of life,” said the 36-year-old lawyer, who, in his role at IMPACT, has promoted the campaigns of many aspiring politicians. Founded in 2016 by community leader Deepak Raj and former Kansas State Representative Raj Goyle, Indian American IMPACT is working to grow Indian American interest and participation in politics, and has supported several Indian American candidates.

The organization credits itself for turning out thousands of new voters in the 2020 election, helping to defeat former President Donald Trump, who was seeking a second term, as well as flipping red states to blue to secure a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Makhija raised $842,000 for his primary bid, more than all of his opponents combined, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“We ran a positive campaign and inspired a new and diverse coalition of voters to turn out to vote in every corner of the county,” said Makhija, who thanked his wife, Dr. Rachel Nash, for securing his victory in the primary. The couple are expecting their first baby in June.

Makhija has received support from the prominent gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action, which has labeled him a “Gun Sense Candidate.” The candidate has stated that he will fight to reduce gun violence by making it harder for domestic abusers and violent criminals to get guns, and work with community leaders to expand gun buyback programs. At the state and federal level, Makhija said he will support candidates who want to expand background checks and ban assault weapons.

Makhija has also been endorsed by a pro-choice organization. He has stated that he wants to expand mental health services, build more housing for low-income and un-housed people, and has offered a plan for addressing climate change.