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Jayapal makes a populist plea in Capitol Hill launch for Congress


Jayapal joined $15 Now backers for a minimum wage “victory lap” informing workers about the change in 2015 (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

Striking the most populist tone in what will be Seattle’s most contentious 2016 U.S. House race, state Sen. Pramila Jayapal announced her candidacy for the 7th Congressional District Thursday during an event at Seattle Central College.

“I’m running for Congress because our system is rigged for corporations and the wealthy,” Jayapal said, tacking on a rebuke of the outsized influence the “one percent” have in Washington D.C.

It was the second campaign announcement of the week following King County Council member Joe McDermott’s jump into the race on Wednesday. State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw entered the race in December. Jayapal would be the first woman and the first immigrant to represent the 7th district.

“In the minority, you don’t pass your own bills all of the time, you get things done in other funky ways.”

Surrounded by a group of supporters that included state Sen. David Frockt, Jayapal ticked off a slew of issues she wanted to tackle in Congress: ensuring debt free college, preserving access to abortions, gun reform, and taking on campaign spending by overturning Citizens United.

Jayapal’s backers include former City Council member Nick Licata and King County Council member Larry Gossett. Jon Grant, former head of the Tenant’s Union, said in a statement that Jayapal is a leader that “only comes around once in a generation”

Currently serving her first term in the state Senate, Jayapal’s 37th District includes South Seattle and parts of Renton and Skyway. Jayapal lives in Columbia City, which is not in the 7th District. She said she would move if she won the November election.

Wednesday's announcement at Seattle Central

Wednesday’s announcement at Seattle Central

Prior to taking elected office, Jayapal founded the successful immigrant advocacy organization OneAmerica, where she said she worked for years in the halls Congress on issues like passing the DREAM Act. She also said her experience serving in the minority party of the state Senate has well prepared her to turn Seattle’s progressive values into pragmatic action.

“In the minority, you don’t pass your own bills all of the time, you get things done in other funky ways,” she said. “The reason people get frustrated sometimes is they think they’re going to pass a $15 minimum wage bill, but unless Congress really shifts, we have a long way to get people there.”

After 14 terms representing the 7th District in D.C., Jim McDermott announced after Christmas that he was retiring and stepping aside, opening the field to what has been expected to be a long list of competitors.

The Democrat Jayapal’s move all but eliminates the chance that Seattle City Council representative for District 3 Kshama Sawant will make a Socialist Alternative bid for Jim McDermott’s seat.

Jayapal was a close ally of Sawant’s in the lead up to the District 3 election in November. Both favor lifting the state ban on rent control and raising the minimum wage. Jayapal also shares The Stranger’s political love — the site’s Slog blog featured the full text of Jayapal’s announcement speech in a posting choreographed with her Thursday afternoon announcement.

Like Walkinshaw, Jayapal will have to balance campaigning for Congress with her obligations in Olympia. She recently introduced a bills to automatically register eligible voters with certain forms of identification, lift the statute of limitations on rapes and sexual assaults, and provide two free years of college education.

Born in India, Jayapal moved to the U.S. at 16. She told CHS that Capitol Hill was the first neighborhood she lived in when she moved to Seattle in the 1991.

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One thought on “Jayapal makes a populist plea in Capitol Hill launch for Congress

  1. Ummm, Jayapal doesn’t live in the district does she? She doesn’t want to represent US, she wants to be in higher office.