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Pramila Jayapal eyes Washington State Senate

Last updated on: May 15, 2014 00:23 IST

Pramila Jayapal, founder and former executive director of One America -- the largest immigrant advocacy organisation in WashingtonState -- is running for State Senate from the 37th District.

She has won early endorsements from well-known political, business and community leaders, including retiring incumbent Representative Adam Kline, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and former King County Executive Ron Sims.

Jayapal, 48, an outspoken advocate on issues related to immigration, women’s rights and social justice, has a fair chance to win in the Democratic primary scheduled for August 5.

This is her first run for a public office. She is currently the Distinguished Taconic Fellow at the Center for Community Change and a Distinguished Fellow at the University of Washington Law School.

“In my two decades of work for justice, I have seen the critical intersections between education, affordable housing, adequate family income, transportation, criminal justice and immigrant rights,” said Jayapal, an attorney and author. “It would be an honor to have the opportunity to represent these very issues for this district that I love and have lived in for nearly two decades.”

In the ethnically and economically diverse district, her opponents are Japanese-American activist Louis Watanabe and National Association of Child Care Professionals leader Sheley Secrest. Jayapal is far ahead of them in fundraising.

There are about 70,000 registered voters in the 37th district, which is predominantly Democratic. If Jayapal wins the primary, chances of her winning in November are almost certain. If elected, she would be the only woman of color in the State Senate.

“I am running to find real solutions to issues. I am running to win, but this campaign is not just about me. I want to re-engage those that have fallen away from our democracy and remind everyone that each one of us can make a difference,” Jayapal’s campaign statement said.

“I will be asking you to give me your vote, yes, but also to give me your energy, your hope, your determination to transform our system so that we lift all voices and work together for positive change,” she said.

“Our campaign will celebrate the diversity that is the hallmark of this district: whether you’re white, black or brown, young or old, there’s a place for you in this campaign if you want to make change with us,” she added.

She said she had witnessed the country become less than it should be because of growing income inequality and less help for those who need it the most.

“We can create a community where we all take care of each other, because if one of us is struggling then all of us are hurt. If we build our power collectively, we can do better for everyone,” Jayapal added.

She founded OneAmerica in the wake of September 11, to fight against the targeting of Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians. Jayapal also led the largest voter registration effort of new Americans in the state, registering a total of over 23,000 people.

Last year, she was recognised as a White House Champion of Change. She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman’s Return to a Changing India. Jayapal lives in ColumbiaCity with her husband Steve and son Janak, a junior in the Seattle Public Schools.

Aziz Haniffa Washington, DC