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Pramila Jayapal (pronounced /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 encompasses 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 U.S. House of Representatives.[1] The District's first female congresswoman, she is also the first Asian-American to represent Washington in Congress.

Pramila Jayapal
Pramila Jayapal 115th Congress photo (cropped).jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Preceded by Jim McDermott
Member of the Washington Senate
from the 37th district
In office
January 12, 2015 – December 12, 2016
Preceded by Adam Kline
Succeeded by Rebecca Saldaña
Personal details
Born (1965-09-21) September 21, 1965 (age 52)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Steve Williamson
Children 1
Education Georgetown University (BA)
Northwestern University (MBA)
Website House website

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] Jayapal founded immigrant advocacy group 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.


Early life and educationEdit

Jayapal was born in Chennai, India, to an Indian family and was raised in Indonesia and Singapore.[5] 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.[2]

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.[6] The group changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008.[7][8] Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012. In 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change."[9]

Early political careerEdit

Jayapal speaks in Seattle in 2015

Jayapal served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle's $15 minimum wage,[10] and co-chaired the Mayor's police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city's first woman police chief.[11]

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,[7] and won more than 51% of the vote in the August 5 primary, out of a field of six candidates.[12] She went on to defeat fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe in November 2014.[13]

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.[14] She co-sponsored a bill to test and track thousands of police department rape kits.[15]

Jayapal endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the Democratic primary.[16]

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.[17] In April, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders.[18] On August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary, alongside state representative Brady Walkinshaw, also a Democrat.[19] In the final weeks of the race, Jayapal and her supporters contested claims from Walkinshaw that she had not advanced enough legislation.[20] [21] Jayapal won the general election with 56 percent of the vote.[22]


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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] Jayapal is a supporter of universal healthcare and co-sponsor of Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act. [26]

During the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Jayapal met with constituents in her congressional district instead of attending the ceremony.[27] The Nation called her "a leader of the resistance," quoting Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling Jayapal "a rising star in the Democratic Caucus."[28] In September, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) apologized to Jayapal after calling her "young lady" in an exchange that went viral.[29] Jayapal has described facing sexism from colleagues in Congress.[30]

Leadership postsEdit

Committee membershipsEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Jayapal became a U.S. citizen in 2000.[8] She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India, published in March 2000.[31][32]

Jayapal lives in the West Seattle neighborhood of Seattle with her husband Steve.[33]

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. ^ a b "Pramila Moves to West Seattle". Pramila Jayapal. Retrieved June 22, 2017. 
  3. ^ "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. ^ "About". Pramila Jayapal. Retrieved February 3, 2015. 
  6. ^ "History | OneAmerica". Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  7. ^ a b Turnbull, Lornet (March 10, 2014). "Seattle activist Pramila Jayapal seeks state Senate seat". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Shephard, Aria (June 30, 2008). "Hate Free Zone gets new name, OneAmerica, With Justice for All". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Seattle woman honored as 'Champion of Change' at White House". KING5. May 6, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Mayor's Income Inequality Advisory Committee" (PDF). 
  11. ^ "Murray Makes Police Chief Pick: It's Kathleen O'Toole!". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  12. ^ "Pramila Jayapal wins six-candidate primary race for WA state senate". Nri Pulse. August 13, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Democrats trailing in state Senate races". Seattle Times. November 5, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015. 
  14. ^ "SB 5863 - Concerning highway construction workforce development". Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  15. ^ "SB 6484 - Protecting victims of sex crimes". Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  16. ^ Merica, Dan (August 9, 2015). "Sanders' biggest rally yet comes with an undercurrent of racial issues". CNN. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ Beekman, Daniel (July 6, 2016). "Boost from Bernie Sanders plays into Seattle race for Congress". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 1, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Congressional District 7". Retrieved November 17, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Misogyny and racism, sure - but not in Seattle congressional race". The Seattle Times. October 25, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2016. 
  21. ^ "7th Congressional District race: Overstated accusations about Pramila Jayapal". The Seattle Times. 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  22. ^ "Congressional District 7". Retrieved November 14, 2016. 
  23. ^ "Jayapal and Sanders Introduce College for All Act". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-06-23. 
  24. ^ "Jayapal, Raskin Introduce Trump Transparency Package". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2017-06-23. 
  25. ^ "Jayapal, Diaz Barragán, McEachin Introduce Environmental Justice Bill Package". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. 2017-06-02. Retrieved 2017-06-23. 
  26. ^ "Cosponsors: H.R.676 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)". Retrieved 2018-02-09. 
  27. ^ "Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal Won't Be Attending the Inauguration". The Stranger. Retrieved 2017-06-22. 
  28. ^ "Pramila Jayapal Wants Democrats to Know That Resistance Is Not Enough". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2017-06-22. 
  29. ^ "Rep. Don Young apologizes for irate retort to female colleague". USA Today. 
  30. ^ "Rep. Pramila Jayapal takes sexist arrows and fights back". The Hill. 
  31. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India by Pramila Jayapal". Retrieved April 29, 2016. 
  32. ^ Stephen, David (June 25, 2001). "Pramila Jayapal talks about her book Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India". Retrieved April 29, 2016. 
  33. ^ "Log In or Sign Up to View". Retrieved 2017-06-22. 

External linksEdit