SEATTLE (TIP): Indian-American Pramila Jayapal has swept an open Congressional primary in Washington State with 38.2 per cent of the votes and could make history as the first woman from the community to be elected to the US House of Representatives if she wins the November general election.
Born in India and raised in Indonesia and Singapore, 50-year-old Jayapal would be facing either of the two candidates she defeated in the open primary by more than 16 per cent.
Besides Pramila there are three other serious Indian-American contenders for seat in US House of Representatives.
Ami Bera is seeking his third term from California. He is the only Indian American in the current Congress. Two others running for a House seat are Raja Krishnamoorthi from a suburb of Chicago and Ro Khanna from Silicon Valley.
All four are considered to have a bright chance of winning the November general elections.
The Indian American Democrat emerged victorious in the Aug. 2 primary election for the state’s 7th Congressional district, which is vacant with incumbent Jim McDermott not seeking reelection.
Her two other rivals were Joe McDermott (21.5 per cent) and Brady Walkinshaw (20.9).
“Thank you so much to the voters of the 7th Congressional District! You have fueled the flame of our movement with the clear belief that we together can and will reclaim our government to work for all of us!” Jayapal told her supporters at a victory speech.
Jayapal was endorsed by former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Pramila just proved that candidates can run a strong progressive campaign funded by small-dollar donors and win big,” Sanders said.
“The people-powered movement that propelled our campaign to victory in states around the country is already changing how campaigns are run up and down the ticket,” he added. Jayapal trailed early in the race, but saw a steady climb in the polls following Sanders’ endorsement on April 13.
In addition to campaigning with her, the Vermont senator helped Jayapal raise USD 226,000 from 27,692 individual donations and recruited volunteers to make 140,314 phone calls and knock doors.
“When you think of the political revolution, I want you to think about Pramila,” Sanders said.
Jayapal has spent the last 20 years working both internationally and domestically as a leading national advocate for human rights.
She led one of the largest voter registration efforts in Washington State, helping over 23,000 new Americans to register to vote.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone to advocate on behalf of Arab, Muslim and South-Asian American victims of hate crimes targeted after the attacks. After eleven years at the helm of the organization, which was later renamed OneAmerica, she was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her work on behalf of the immigrant community.
A Chennai-born Malayali, she came to the US in 1982 to attend Georgetown University.
She worked on Wall Street as a financial analyst and went on to earn a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University.
After working in the medical equipment industry for a year she found her passion in the social justice arena. She now lives in Seattle.