Neil Makhija, a young Indian-American is running for Pennsylvania state Assembly from District 122, and as a son-of-the-soil born and raised in Carbon County, he hopes to build a grassroots campaign. Neil Makhija, 29, is a first-generation American, a Harvard Law School graduate and former aide to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, and to Vice President Joe Biden.
“Neil is a stellar candidate in his own right, but he’s also from an incredibly competitive district that Democrats can win,” according to Manan Trivedi, an Iraq War veteran who has tried twice to win a seat in the U.S. Congress. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has identified Makhija’s hometown region as a top pickup opportunity in 2016, Trivedi notes.
The 122nd district, just north of Allentown in the Lehigh Valley, was held for decades by the former Democratic Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Keith McCall. When Speaker McCall retired, the GOP won the seat in the Republican wave of 2010. “The county still is Democratic and 2016 is the right time to take back this seat,” Trivedi says.
On his election website neilforPA.com, Makhija says his parents witnessed the power of the American Dream in just one generation. “My father worked in a thread factory in India for under a dollar a day, and was determined to provide his children with a better way of life,” His parents left India and moved to a small town in Pennsylvania thirty five years ago, the place where he was born and brought up.
Makhija says he learnt the values of hard work, empathy, and resilience from his parents, and growing up worked small jobs and rose up the ladder – from scooping ice cream at Leiby’s Restaurant and washing bikes at Pocono Whitewater, to working for the Office of Vice President Joe Biden and in the United States Senate.
He attended Harvard on a scholarship endowed by a Carbon County coal magnate. “That gift – a reminder of our region’s role powering America’s Industrial Revolution – inspired me to use my education to fight for a new vision of economic prosperity in Carbon County,” he says, and he is now ready to give back.
His priorities he says are to invests in the people and harness 21st-century innovation, fight for the middle class, and for world-class education for children, helping seniors, as well as for protecting the environment.