‘A voice at the table’: Meet the youngest state legislators in Ohio

Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, has been the youngest Ohio legislator since he was sworn into office in December 2014 at age 23.

That changed last week.

“Sorry, Rep. Antani, to take that title,” said Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney.

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The distinction now belongs to Sweeney, a Democrat from Cleveland who took the oath Wednesday at age 26, a year younger than Antani, now 27. Sweeney also becomes the first female to represent Ohio’s 14th House District.

However, Sweeney’s run as the youngest lawmaker will be short.

In January, 24-year-old Jena Powell, who grew up in Darke County and who won the race in the 80th District in November’s election, will have the distinction as the youngest member of the legislature.

The 80th District covers Miami and Darke counties. Powell will replace Rep. Steve Huffman who won election to the state Senate earlier this month.

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Sweeney won election in November to the seat her father, Martin Sweeney, resigned from earlier this year run for State Senate, so she was able to take office early.

“At the end of the day, I believe that each and every person in this room wants to make Ohio a better place where everyone can work, live and raise a family,” she said.

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Antani, who worked with Sweeney’s father in the General Assembly, said young lawmakers have to double their efforts to be taken seriously, but deserve to be heard as so many decisions now will affect generations to come.

“Some of my colleagues to this day still don’t necessarily like my age. But I believe young people need to have a voice at the table,” he said. “I think a lot of people are concerned about the future of Ohio and the future of our country for their kids and grandkids and who better to represent them than someone else who is young that will be around decades to come to see the impact of policy.”

Antani was chosen by the Republican Party in the 42nd District after incumbent Terry Blair died unexpectedly. Antani took office on Dec. 2, 2014. He won re-election for the second time in November.

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Even at age 23, Antani was far from the youngest to be appointed or elected to the Ohio House.

Derrick Seaver, first ran as a Democrat and was elected at age 18 to represent the 78th House District from 2001-2006. Current U.S. Sen. Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Christina Hagan, who also filled a seat once held by her father, both took office at the Statehouse as 22-year-olds.

Brown, 66, Ohio’s senior U.S. senator re-elected this year, is currently exploring a presidential run in 2020. Hagan, 29, who ran for U.S. Congress this year and lost her Republican primary, continues to serve the Ohio House District 50 seat she has held since March 2011.

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