Attorney Neil Makhija in race for top post in Pennsylvania county

New York: Indian-American attorney and educator Neil Makhija has thrown his hat in the ring for the May 16 primary election for Commissioner of Montgomery County — the third largest county in Pennsylvania with over 865,000 people. 

If elected, the 36-year-old election law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, would be the first South Asian member to serve for the position left open by outgoing commissioner Valerie Arkoosh. 

Makhija, who belongs to a Sindhi family from India, recently announced leave from serving as Executive Director of IMPACT, the nation’s leading South Asian civic organization, to join the electoral race. 

Under his leadership, IMPACT has endorsed several Indian and South Asian American candidates who have been elected at various levels of the government. 

In 2021, Makhija was one of 13 civil rights leaders invited to the White House to advise President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on voting rights. 

He was named by City & State PA as one of the “40 under 40” most influential people in Pennsylvania politics. 

In 2016, he was the Democratic nominee for the 122nd state House district, a race he lost. 

In his former law practice, Makhija has an experienced background on issues of mental health and addiction. He represented Pennsylvania counties in opioid litigation and notably, children and parents in an early class action against Big Tobacco companies who marketed flavored e-cigarettes to children. 

In 2019, he inspired and advised a US House Oversight Committee panel on an investigation into the youth e-cigarette epidemic, which led to a nationwide ban of flavored e-cigarettes. 

Makhija worked at the White House, Senate, and earned his JD at Harvard Law School on the Horace Lentz Scholarship. 

While at Harvard, he founded the HLS Homelessness Coalition and was a Senior Policy Editor on the Harvard Law & Policy Review. 

He received his B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, where he studied neuroscience and served as co-president of his class and 2009 commencement speaker. 

As the son of Indian immigrants, the Pennsylvania native is passionate about enfranchising underrepresented communities and engaging new citizens in state and local politics. 

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