Pramila Jayapal.
Pramila Jayapal.

On January 21, Washington State Sen. Pramila Jayapal announced that she is running for Washington’s 7th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The seat is currently held by Rep. Jim McDermott, who, after 14 terms, announced on January 6 that he would not be seeking reelection.

Jayapal is currently serving her first term in the Washington State Senate, representing the 37th Legislative District, which stretches south from Capitol Hill to Skyway and downtown Renton.

In a guest column for The Stranger, Jayapal outlined a number the issues she would champion if elected to Congress, including raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security and Medicare, making college affordable, expanding women’s healthcare, addressing immigration and criminal justice reform, and speaking out for diversity.

“I’m running for Congress because our system is rigged for corporations and the wealthy, but we can fight back. The time has come to tackle this inequality: we need to raise the minimum wage, expand Social Security and Medicare, and ensure debt-free college for young people across America,” Jayapal wrote. “I’ll be a bold progressive fighter, someone who will not just represent you but will stand up for you and your values. If you elect me, you can be sure that I will stand up for working people, not the one percent. All the time, I’m going to continue my work on keeping our families together, not deporting them; and for criminal justice reform, not private prisons.”

Jayapal also directed a comment toward the rhetoric coming from Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

“People like Donald Trump are whipping up hate and fear across the country, resulting in a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Latino violence,” Jayapal said. “Like I have always done, I will lead in laying out a different vision because I know, like you do, that America’s diversity is our biggest strength.”

Jayapal immigrated to the United States from India when she was 16 years old. Jayapal founded OneAmerica, Washington state’s largest immigrant advocacy organization, in the wake of September 11, 2001 to fight against the targeting of Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians. She served as executive director for over 10 years. At OneAmerica, Jayapal led the largest voter registration effort of new Americans in Washington State, registering a total of over 23,000 new Americans to vote and launching efforts to engage and educate them to exercise their vote. Jayapal had worked with the Center for Community Change on issues of race and economic opportunity, while also chairing We Belong Together, a national campaign to mobilize women in support of common-sense immigration reform. In 2013, Jayapal was recognized as a White House Champion of Change, along with 14 other AAPI women across the country, for contributions to her community and country. Pramila has also worked on social justice in the international arena, including for the Seattle-based international health organization, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH).

On January 22, OneAmerica Votes announced its endorsement of Jayapal, who founded the nonprofit.

OneAmerica Votes executive director Rich Stolz said in a statement: “As the founder of OneAmerica (formerly Hate Free Zone) and OneAmerica Votes, Senator Jayapal marshalled a broad coalition from across the community after the September 11th attacks to defend immigrants and refugees against racist and xenophobic attacks. … As a Washington State Senator, Jayapal has quickly built a track record for taking the lead on progressive issues, and for being able to work across the aisle to get things done. She has led on critical issues such as increasing Washington’s minimum wage, reducing racial disparities in our schools, and expanding democracy through the Washington Voting Rights Act and other innovative tools.”

Updated 1/22/16 at 5:26 p.m.

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