Washington State Senator Pramila Jayapal has declared her intention to run for the U.S. Congress on January 21st. In her announcement, she declared that she wants to be the voice of masses left behind by the concentration of wealth in the hands of 1 percent.
Describing herself as a “bold, progressive fighter,” Jayapal announced she is running for the Democratic primary scheduled for March 26. She hopes to replace long time Congressman Jim McDermott who is vacating the District 7 seat that leans Democratic.
Jayapal faces off against at least two other Democratic aspirants who have declared so far: King County Council Chair Joe McDermott and State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw. The news outlet Seattlepi.com reported Walkinshaw already has some $300,000 in his campaign coffers and has bagged some key endorsements from leaders in the LGBT community and among environmentalists, as well as some long-time party activists.
Jayapal was elected to the state Senate in 2014, from the 37th Legislative District where she has lived for 20 years and which is one of the most racially and economically diverse districts in the state. But the U.S. Senate District 7 is an amalgam including some prosperous areas and Jayapal has her work cut out for her.
“I am a fighter not for the one percent, but for working men and women; not for austerity, but social security; not for deportations and breaking up families, but building stronger middle class families; not for prisons, but public education, college debt relief and criminal justice reform,” asserts Jayapal on her campaign website.
She is the second left-of-center politico thrown up by the Indian-American community in Washington state, the first being Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, an avowed Socialist whom Jayapal has strongly supported in the past two years.
Jayapal notes in her speech that she stood up for Arabs, Muslims and Sikhs after 9/11 “when few people would.” She attacked Republican frontrunner in the presidential primaries, Donald Trump for “whipping up hate and fear across the country, resulting in a rise in anti-Muslim violence.” She called for protecting Planned Parenthood.
“I’ve been on picket lines and at negotiating tables with numerous labor unions for more than a decade. And I’ve helped bring movements together—labor and community, gay, women and immigrant,—so that we can expand ourselves and see our intersections,” said Jayapal.
Sounding very much like Sawant, Jayapal said, “I’m running for Congress because our system is rigged for corporations and the wealthy, but we can fight back.” Jayapal said. Her core issues are raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security and Medicare, and ensuring debt-free college for young people across America. “I’m ready to take on the powerful, while organizing inside, outside and in-between the two,” she said.
Jayapal came to the U.S. at the age of 16, sent by her parents to study at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “My parents took all the money they had, which was about $5,000 at the time, and used it to send me here to this country because they believed that this was the place I would get the best education and have the brightest future,” she said. After graduating, she worked on Wall Street as a financial analyst, also getting an MBA from Northwestern University. After a few years she quit the private sector to work on social justice issues advocating for women and immigrants and civil and human rights.
She is credited with leading one of the largest voter registration efforts in Washington state, which is said to have got more than 23,000 new Americans to register. Jayapal pushed for setting up the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs in Seattle and was co-chair of the Seattle Police Chief Search panel.
She is the founder of OneAmerica, (previously called Hate Free Zone), Washington state’s largest immigrant advocacy organization, and lobbied hard for the passage of President Obama’s 2014 Dream Act that enabled children of illegal immigrants to find a path to legal status.
In May 2013, she was recognized by President Obama as a White House “Champion of Change.” She lives in Columbia City with her son and husband, and has another grown stepson who lives in Colorado.