By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
On Jan. 21, Washington state Sen. Pramila Jayapal announced her congressional bid in Washington state’s 7th district, in hopes of succeeding U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, who is retiring and vacating his seat after 14 terms.
Jayapal is currently serving her first term as state senator for Washington’s 37th district (from south of Capitol Hill to Skyway and downtown Renton), also her home of nearly 20 years.
“I came to this country when I was 16 years old,” Jayapal said in release. “My parents used all the money they had to send me to school in America because they knew it would give me the best shot at a bright future. They believed that the American Dream was for everyone, not just the rich and powerful.”
Jayapal was born to a Hindu family in India and attended Georgetown University in Washington, DC at age 16, after moving to the United States by herself. After a stint on Wall Street as a financial analyst, she earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Northwestern University. After working in the private sector for a year, Jayapal found her calling and pursued social justice work. Her passion for it only increased following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Five days after the attacks, Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone (now called OneAmerica), to advocate for Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Americans targeted with hate crimes and discrimination following the attacks. Notably, Jayapal organized a press conference in the wake of the attacks and the very first elected official she ever spoke to was McDermott, according to a Seattle Met story. McDermott encouraged her to form Hate Free Zone.
Jayapal served as OneAmerica’s executive director until 2012. OneAmerica has expanded its mission since 2001. It now helps immigrants participate in civic life, push for policy changes, increase the capacity of immigrant organizations, among other endeavors.
“I’m running for Congress because now is the time for a bold progressive fighter,” Jayapal said.
While living in the district is not a requirement for a Congressional seat, Jayapal told The Stranger and The Seattle Times that she will move to the 7th district if elected.
According to a 2014 MSNBC report, of the 535 members serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, only 81 are women. Of those 81 women, only 31 are women of color, according to the Center for American Woman and Politics.
“We need to fight not for the 1 percent, but for working men and women,” said Jayapal in her release. “Not for austerity, but social security. Not for deportations and breaking up families but building stronger middle class families. Not for private schools, colleges and prisons, but public education, college debt relief and criminal justice reform.” (end)
For more information, visit pramilaforcongress.com.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.