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Pramila Jayapal (/prəˈmɪlə ˈəˌpɑːl/; born September 21, 1965) is an American politician and activist from the State of Washington who currently serves as the U.S. Representative from Washington's 7th congressional district, which includes most of Seattle as well as suburban areas of King County. As a member of the Democratic Party, she represented the 37th legislative district in the Washington State Senate from 2015 to 2017. She is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives.[1] The district's first female member of Congress, she is also the first Asian-American to represent Washington in Congress.

Pramila Jayapal
Pramila Jayapal 115th Congress photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Preceded byJim McDermott
Member of the Washington Senate
from the 37th district
In office
January 12, 2015 – December 12, 2016
Preceded byAdam Kline
Succeeded byRebecca Saldaña
Personal details
Born (1965-09-21) September 21, 1965 (age 53)
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Steve Williamson
EducationGeorgetown University (BA)
Northwestern University (MBA)
WebsiteHouse website

Before entering electoral politics, Jayapal was a Seattle-based civil rights activist, serving until 2012 as the executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigrant advocacy group.[2] Jayapal founded the organization, originally called Hate Free Zone, following the 2001 September 11 attacks. The organization successfully sued the Bush Administration's Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis across the country.

Described by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as "a rising star in the Democratic caucus",[3] Jayapal currently serves as the First Vice Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus[4] and serves on both the Judiciary and Budget committees.[5]


Early life and educationEdit

Jayapal was born in Chennai, India, to a Malayali-Indian family and was raised in Indonesia and Singapore.[6][7] She immigrated 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.[8]

Jayapal worked with PaineWebber as a financial analyst after graduating from Northwestern. In her time at PaineWebber, Jayapal developed a desire to apply her financial prowess to the good of society, and began spending time working on development projects from Chicago to Thailand. After this occupation, Jayapal briefly worked in sales and marketing with a medical company before ultimately moving into the public sector in 1991.[9]

Advocacy workEdit

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.[10] The group changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008.[11][12] Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012. In 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change."[13]

On June 29, 2018, Jayapal participated in Women Disobey and the sit-in at the Hart Senate Office Building to protest the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” approach to illegal immigration.[14] The protest resulted in the arrest of over 500 people, including Jayapal. She said she was "proud to have been arrested" for protesting the administration’s "inhumane and cruel" policy.[15]

Early political careerEdit

Jayapal speaks in Seattle in 2015

Jayapal served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle's $15 minimum wage,[16] and co-chaired the Mayor's police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city's first woman police chief.[17]

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[11] and won more than 51% of the vote in the August 5 primary, out of a field of six candidates.[18] She went on to defeat fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe in November 2014.[19]

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.[20] She co-sponsored a bill to test and track thousands of police department rape kits.[21]

Jayapal endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the Democratic primary.[22]

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit


In January 2016, Jayapal declared her candidacy for Congress in Washington's 7th congressional district, after Congressman Jim McDermott announced his retirement.[23] In April, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders.[24] On August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary, alongside state representative Brady Walkinshaw, also a Democrat.[25] This was the first time in the state's history that a federal seat was contested by two Democrats.[26] In the final weeks of the race, Jayapal and her supporters contested claims from Walkinshaw that she had not advanced enough legislation.[27][28] Jayapal won the general election with 56 percent of the vote.[29]


Jayapal is a co-sponsor of legislation intended to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for most families and to significantly reduce student debt.[30] She and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) introduced the Trump Transparency Package, a series of bills aimed at promoting transparency and eliminating conflicts of interest in the Trump White House.[31] Jayapal and her fellow co-chairs of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force also introduced a package of Environmental Justice bills to fight the impact of climate change on frontline communities.[32] Jayapal is a supporter of universal healthcare and co-sponsor of Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act.[33] On April 16, 2018, Jayapal joined Justice Democrats.[34]

During the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Jayapal met with constituents in her congressional district instead of attending the ceremony.[35] The Nation called her "a leader of the resistance," quoting Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling Jayapal "a rising star in the Democratic caucus."[3] In September, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) apologized to Jayapal after calling her "young lady" in an exchange that went viral.[36] Jayapal has described facing sexism from colleagues in Congress.[37]

Leadership postsEdit

Committee membershipsEdit

Jayapal is also a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.[38]

Personal lifeEdit

Jayapal became a U.S. citizen in 2000.[12] She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India, published in March 2000.[39][40]

Jayapal lives in the West Seattle neighborhood of Seattle with her husband Steve.[41]

Electoral historyEdit

Washington's 7th Congressional District nonpartisan blanket primary election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pramila Jayapal 82,753 42.11
Democratic Brady Walkinshaw 41,773 21.26
Democratic Joe McDermott 37,495 19.08
Republican Craig Keller 16,058 8.17
Republican Scott Sutherland 9,008 4.58
Democratic Arun Jhaveri 3,389 1.72
Independent Leslie Regier 2,592 1.32
Democratic Don Rivers 2,379 1.21
Independent Carl Cooper 1,056 0.54
Total votes 196,503 100.00
Washington's 7th Congressional District election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pramila Jayapal 212,010 55.98
Democratic Brady Walkinshaw 166,744 44.02
Total votes 378,754 100.00
Democratic hold
Washington's 7th Congressional District nonpartisan blanket primary election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pramila Jayapal (incumbent) 189,175 82.7
Republican Craig Keller 39,657 17.3
Total votes 228,832 100.0

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ "Pramila Jayapal Leaving OneAmerica | OneAmerica". July 8, 2017. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Pramila Jayapal Wants Democrats to Know That Resistance Is Not Enough". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2017-06-22.
  4. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  5. ^ Jayapal, Pramila. "About". Pramila Jayapal. House of Representatives. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  6. ^ "About". Pramila Jayapal. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  7. ^ "Chennai-born Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian origin Tamil woman to be elected to US Congress". Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  8. ^ "Pramila Moves to West Seattle". Pramila Jayapal. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
  9. ^ "About". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. 2012-12-03. Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  10. ^ "History | OneAmerica". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  11. ^ a b Turnbull, Lornet (March 10, 2014). "Seattle activist Pramila Jayapal seeks state Senate seat". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Shephard, Aria (June 30, 2008). "Hate Free Zone gets new name, OneAmerica, With Justice for All". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  13. ^ "Seattle woman honored as 'Champion of Change' at White House". KING5. May 6, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  14. ^ Reints, Renae (June 29, 2018). "Nearly 600 Arrested in Washington #WomenDisobey Protest". Fortune. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  15. ^ Niraj, Chokshi (June 29, 2018). "Hundreds Arrested During Women's Immigration Protest in Washington". New York Times. Retrieved July 1, 2018. On Thursday afternoon, Ms. Jayapal said she was “proud to have been arrested” in protesting the administration’s “inhumane and cruel” policy.
  16. ^ "Mayor's Income Inequality Advisory Committee" (PDF).
  17. ^ "Murray Makes Police Chief Pick: It's Kathleen O'Toole!". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  18. ^ "Pramila Jayapal wins six-candidate primary race for WA state senate". Nri Pulse. August 13, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  19. ^ "Democrats trailing in state Senate races". Seattle Times. November 5, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  20. ^ "SB 5863 - Concerning highway construction workforce development". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  21. ^ "SB 6484 - Protecting victims of sex crimes". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  22. ^ Merica, Dan (August 9, 2015). "Sanders' biggest rally yet comes with an undercurrent of racial issues". CNN. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Beekman, Daniel (July 6, 2016). "Boost from Bernie Sanders plays into Seattle race for Congress". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  25. ^ "Congressional District 7". Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  26. ^ "Jayapal claims victory over Walkinshaw in House battle of progressives". Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  27. ^ "Misogyny and racism, sure - but not in Seattle congressional race". The Seattle Times. October 25, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  28. ^ "7th Congressional District race: Overstated accusations about Pramila Jayapal". The Seattle Times. 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  29. ^ "Congressional District 7". Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  30. ^ "Jayapal and Sanders Introduce College for All Act". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  31. ^ "Jayapal, Raskin Introduce Trump Transparency Package". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  32. ^ "Jayapal, Diaz Barragán, McEachin Introduce Environmental Justice Bill Package". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. 2017-06-02. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  33. ^ "Cosponsors: H.R.676 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)". Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  34. ^ "Justice Democrats on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
  35. ^ "Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal Won't Be Attending the Inauguration". The Stranger. Retrieved 2017-06-22.
  36. ^ "Rep. Don Young apologizes for irate retort to female colleague". USA Today.
  37. ^ "Rep. Pramila Jayapal takes sexist arrows and fights back". The Hill.
  38. ^ "Members". Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  39. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India by Pramila Jayapal". Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  40. ^ Stephen, David (June 25, 2001). "Pramila Jayapal talks about her book Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India". Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  41. ^ "Log In or Sign Up to View". Retrieved 2017-06-22.

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim McDermott
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 7th congressional district

Party political offices
Preceded by
Raúl Grijalva
Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Taking office 2019
Served alongside: Mark Pocan
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Trey Hollingsworth
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Mike Johnson