Mt. Lebanon commissioner enters county executive race

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Encouraging startup companies is key to bringing more jobs to Allegheny County, the newest candidate for county executive told about 50 cheering supporters this morning.

D. Raja, a Mt. Lebanon commissioner and founder of an information technology company, became the third Republican to announce a run for his party's nomination for the post.

"We need to focus on creating jobs," Mr. Raja said. "Particularly focus on startups, which account for most new jobs."

Born in south India and a naturalized U.S. citizen, Mr. Raja, 45, follows the custom of his birthplace and uses one name. The initial "D," which precedes his name, represents his father's name.

Mr. Raja knows about startups and job creation. He is the chief executive officer of a CEI, a company he began in the bedroom of his South Hills townhouse in 1993. The technology company based in Scott now employs more than 300 people.

In 2007, he was elected a Mt. Lebanon commissioner.

The county was long a magnet for immigrants and entrepreneurs seeking opportunity, he said. "But Allegheny County's high taxes, aging infrastructure and inefficiency have driven people away to communities like Cranberry and Peters Township," he said. "Thousands of jobs [have gone to] places like Austin [Texas] and Fairfax [County, Va.]."

The result has been an outflow of children and grandchildren in search of economic opportunities, he said.

Mr. Raja made his announcement in the lobby of the Ewart Building on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, which is home to several high-tech start-ups. "There is no reason why this building, and many like it, should not be crowded with new companies, yet there is empty space here," he said.

Mr. Raja came to the United States in 1986 and earned a master of computer science degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master of business administration degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

He described himself as a fiscal and social conservative who felt at home in the Republican Party. "I believe in small government and lower taxes," he said.

Democrats hold a wide registration edge in Allegheny County, but Mr. Raja said he believed he could draw voters from that party if he won the GOP nomination. "Good ideas and strong execution are not partisan," he said.

He and his physician wife Neeta have two daughters, Isana, 9, and Omisa, 7.

County Councilman Chuck McCullough, R-Upper St. Clair, and tea party leader Patti Weaver, of Fox Chapel, also are running for the Republican nomination.

Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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