If you've been on Slog today, you already know that Democratic State Senator Pramila Jayapal wants a seat in the U.S. Congress. But this afternoon's official launch of her campaign for the 7th Congressional District at Seattle Central College gave us a glimpse of what Jayapal will be running on and who'll be supporting her.
In prepared remarks, which you can read in full here, Jayapal pitched herself as a movement builder with an unabashedly progressive agenda.
"I’m running for Congress because our system is rigged for corporations and the wealthy," Jayapal said, flanked by supporters including State Senator David Frockt, tenant advocate Jon Grant, and Seattle-King County NAACP Vice President Sheley Secrest. "But we can fight back. The time has come to tackle this inequality."
Jayapal, 50, founded the immigrant rights advocacy group OneAmerica and is currently the only woman of color in the Washington State Senate. In announcing her bid for national office, she called for an increase to the minimum wage, expansion of Social Security and Medicare, and debt-free college. She pledged to work on "keeping families together, not deporting them; and for criminal justice reform not private prisons. " She also specifically mentioned expanding access to women's health care.
"With Planned Parenthood under attack, with clinics burning, now more than ever, we cannot settle for being on defense," she said. "I will fight to expand access to women’s health care, and that includes access to abortion care."
In remarks before Jayapal spoke, Justis Phillips, a reproductive rights advocate, called the state senator an "absolute rockstar" on reproductive rights, praising her efforts to expand access to contraceptives including IUDs.
Jayapal doesn't live in the 7th Congressional District, but that isn't a requirement to run for the seat. She told me after her speech that she lived in the district for 21 years until it was recently redrawn. She said she would move into the district if elected.
Walkinshaw, who was the first to jump in, seemed to be positioning himself as the farthest left progressive in the race. He'll lose that distinction with Jayapal's entrance. When I asked Walkinshaw about all this earlier today, he was hesitant to point out specific policy disagreements he has with Jayapal or McDermott, but hinted that he sees himself as more of a bridge-builder than Jayapal.
"What I bring, I think, is an ability to work with people and build broad coalitions with a model of leadership that is thoughtful and collaborative," said Walkinshaw, who has already raised more than $300,000, according to his campaign.
Jayapal said today that her track record in the Washington State Legislature of co-sponsoring bipartisan bills, including a recent push for free community college, shows her own "collaborative" approach.
Frockt, the state senator who was also thought to be considering a run for this seat but bowed out earlier this month, called Jayapal "somebody who gets into the nitty gritty" of policy.
Susana Roman, a 20-year-old University of Washington student recounted getting involved with OneAmerica when she was in high school.
"I learned to use my voice because of Pramila's leadership," Roman said. "As a woman of color, I was able to see myself in Pramila... She gives me and my peers the chance to be the best we can be."