A recent Ohio State graduate is hoping to become the youngest sitting state representative on Nov. 4.
Ohio State graduate Niraj Antani, 23, is the Republican Party nominee in Ohio’s 42nd House District.
Antani — who graduated from OSU in spring 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in political science — is currently a law student at the University of Dayton.
Antani said a lot of people have criticized him for his age, but he sees it as an advantage.
“I believe our generation should have a voice. The legislature in Columbus should look like who they serve, they should not all just be one age demographic,” he said. “A lot of people who told me to wait to run, they told me I was too young, too inexperienced. I did not believe that. Candidates should be chosen on their merit, on who is going to be the best candidate.”
Antani was chosen as a replacement for the Republican Party in the 42nd District after incumbent Terry Blair died unexpectedly on June 26.
The hardest part of his campaign was Blair’s death, Antani said.
“I knew Rep. Blair pretty well. Having to do politics after a guy you knows passes away is hard. I try to keep Terry to heart,” he said.
Antani, who said he had been interested in politics since he was little, said the most rewarding part of this campaign was the opportunity to do something of which he was proud.
“I have the opportunity to do things I believe in. I fundamentally believe that this generation should have a voice,” he said.
Antani also stressed the importance of his generation voting in state elections.
“Voting is the highest duty of any citizen,” he said. “If you want to exercise your second amendment right and carry on campus, you can change that at the ballot box. Every industry is touched by state government.”
Antani is running against 62-year-old Democratic opponent Patrick Merris, who is currently a councilman in West Carrollton, Ohio.
Merris’s campaign did not return email and phone requests for comment by Tuesday evening.
And even though Merris is almost three times his age, Antani said OSU prepared him for the race.
“My time at Ohio State gave me the drive to want to serve,” he said. “A lot of the things we talked about at Ohio State, like safety and drugs, are things we talk about at the state level.”
While at OSU, Antani was involved in numerous organizations including Undergraduate Student Government, University Senate, Council on Academic Affairs and College Republicans.
Sam Zuidema, the chairman of OSU College Republicans, said he is glad his friend is running.
“The College Republicans are thrilled that one of our own is running for the Ohio House of Representatives. As a personal friend of Niraj Antani, I know that he will work hard and succeed at representing his constituents when he wins his election next Tuesday. He will bring a new voice to the Ohio House and will fight wholeheartedly for responsible government and the American dream,” said Zuidema, a fourth-year in history and political science, via email.
Former USG vice president Josh Ahart said Antani’s time in USG prepared him for this campaign.
“I think Niraj is a tremendous representation of what USG can do for people. His work ethic and his passion is something that everyone in USG always strived for. He, and others from USG at Ohio State, running at such young ages inspire me to maybe do the same thing one day,” Ahart said in an email. “Ohio State prepares students for the world. I have no doubt that Niraj’s experience at Ohio state and in USG have prepared him for this role.”
OSU College Democrats did not respond to multiple email requests for comment.
Antani joins in the ranks of other former USG members who are on the ballot this November.
Former USG President and 2011 graduate Micah Kamrass is currently running for state representative of the 28th Ohio House District. Josh Mandel, a 2000 OSU graduate and former USG president, is running for his second term as Ohio Treasurer. And John Carney — who got his undergraduate degree from OSU in 1998 and his Juris Doctor in 2001 — is running for state auditor.
This is not Antani’s first campaign, though.
He ran for USG president in 2012, but lost to Taylor Stepp and running mate Kevin Arndt.
Antani is also in good company of politicians who have lost their run at USG presidency. Gov. John Kasich ran for both president and vice president of USG and lost both times.
The 42nd District of Ohio has not seen a democratic candidate in two decades, leaving Antani confident for November.
“I will hopefully be very happy Nov. 4,” he said.
Correction: Oct. 29, 2014
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Terry Blair as having been a state senator when in fact, he was a state representative.