Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal, 2015
Member-elect of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 7th district
Taking office
January 3, 2017
Succeeding Jim McDermott
Member of the Washington Senate from 37th legislative district
Assumed office
January 12, 2015 (2015-01-12)
Preceded by Adam Kline
Personal details
Born (1965-09-21) September 21, 1965
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Steve Williamson
Children Janak Preston
Residence Columbia City, Seattle, Washington
Alma mater Georgetown University (B.A.)
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (M.B.A.)
Profession Financial analyst
Religion Hindu
Website Official

Pramila Jayapal (born September 21, 1965) is an Indian-American activist and politician from the state of Washington. As a member of the Democratic Party, she has represented the 37th legislative district in the Washington State Senate since 2015. On January 3, 2017, she will be sworn in to represent Washington's 7th congressional district in the 115th United States Congress, where she will be the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives[1] and the first woman to represent the 7th District in Congress.

Before entering electoral politics, Jayapal was a Seattle-based civil rights activist, serving until 2012 as the executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigration advocacy group.[2]

Early life and education

Jayapal was born in Chennai, India to a Tamil family and raised in Indonesia and Singapore.[3] She came to the United States in 1982, at the age of 16, to attend college. She earned her bachelor's degree from Georgetown University, and an MBA from Northwestern University.[2]

Advocacy work

Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone after the 2001 September 11 attacks as an advocacy group for immigrant groups. Hate Free Zone registered new American citizens to vote and lobbied on immigration reform and related issues. They successfully sued the Bush Administration's Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis across the country.[4] The group changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008.[5][6] Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012. In 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change."[7]


Jayapal served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle's $15 minimum wage,[8] and co-chaired the Mayor's police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city's first woman police chief.[9]

After State Senator Adam Kline announced his retirement in early 2014, Jayapal entered the race to succeed him. She was endorsed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.,[5] and won more than 51% of the vote in the August 5 primary, out of a field of six candidates.[10] She went on to defeat fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe in November 2014.[11]

In the Washington State Senate, Jayapal was the primary sponsor of SB 5863, which directs the Washington State Department of Transportation to administer a pre-apprenticeship program targeting women and people of color; the bill passed into law in July 2015.[12] She co-sponsored a bill to test and track thousands of police department rape kits.[13] Over her two-year tenure in Olympia, Jayapal was rated "in the bottom 98% of legislators in the WA Senate" by FiscalNote, which analyzes the ability of legislators to advance sponsored legislation.[14][15] This rating was used by her opponent in television advertising,[16] and her political supporters objected to its use.[17]

In January 2016, Jayapal declared her candidacy for Congress in Washington's 7th congressional district, after Congressman Jim McDermott announced his retirement.[18] In April, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders.[19] She also was endorsed by The Stranger in the 2016 primary and general election.[20][21] An investigation by The Stranger found that Jayapal made exaggerated and misleading claims about her legislative record in Olympia while conducting her congressional campaign.[22]

On August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary.[23] She advanced to the general election in November[24] and won with 56 percent of the vote.[25]

Personal life

Jayapal became a U.S. citizen in 2000.[6] She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India, published in March 2000.[26][27]

Jayapal lives in the Seattle neighborhood of Columbia City with her husband Steve and their son.[2]


  1. Beekman, Daniel; Thomson, Lynn; Rowe, Claudia (November 9, 2016). "Jayapal becomes the first Indian-American and First Tamil woman elected to Congress". Seattle Times. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 "Pramila's Story". Pramila Jayapal for State Senate. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  3. "About". Pramila Jayapal. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  4. "History | OneAmerica". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  5. 1 2 Turnbull, Lornet (March 10, 2014). "Seattle activist Pramila Jayapal seeks state Senate seat". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  6. 1 2 Shephard, Aria (June 30, 2008). "Hate Free Zone gets new name, OneAmerica, With Justice for All". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  7. "Seattle woman honored as 'Champion of Change' at White House". KING5. May 6, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  8. "Mayor's Income Inequality Advisory Committee" (PDF).
  9. "Murray Makes Police Chief Pick: It's Kathleen O'Toole!". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  10. "Pramila Jayapal wins six-candidate primary race for WA state senate". Nri Pulse. August 13, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  11. "Democrats trailing in state Senate races". Seattle Times. November 5, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  12. "SB 5863 - Concerning highway construction workforce development". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  13. "SB 6484 - Protecting victims of sex crimes". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  14. "Sen. Pramila Jayapal". FiscalNote. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  15. "Misogyny and racism, sure - but not in Seattle congressional race". The Seattle Times. October 25, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  16. "Walkinshaw Ad Causes Controversy in 7th District Race | Politics | Seattle Met". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  17. "7th Congressional District race: Overstated accusations about Pramila Jayapal". The Seattle Times. 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  18. Connelly, Joel (January 21, 2016). "Pramila Jayapal enters U.S. House race with blast at 'the 1 percent'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  19. Beekman, Daniel (July 6, 2016). "Boost from Bernie Sanders plays into Seattle race for Congress". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  20. "The Stranger's Endorsements for the August 2016 Primary Election!". The Stranger. November 2, 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  21. "The Stranger's Endorsements for the November 2016 General Election". The Stranger. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  22. "Fact Check: Pramila Jayapal Has Stretched the Truth About Her Achievements in Olympia". The Stranger. November 2, 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  23. "Congressional District 7". Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  24. Jayapal advances to November ballot in 7th Congressional District race, Seattle Times, Daniel Beekman & Lynn Thompson, August 2, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  25. "Congressional District 7". Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  26. "Nonfiction Book Review: Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India by Pramila Jayapal, Author Seal Press (CA) $22.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-58005-032-6". Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  27. Stephen, David (June 25, 2001). "Pramila Jayapal talks about her book Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India". Retrieved April 29, 2016.
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