Pramila Jayapal would be a powerful contender for Jim McDermotts seat in Congress.
Pramila Jayapal would be a powerful contender for Jim McDermott's seat in Congress. Alex Garland

After saying early this month she was strongly considering a run for the 7th Congressional District, State Senator Pramila Jayapal looks likely to formally jump into the race today.

She's holding a press conference at Seattle Central College at 2:30 p.m. and we're getting strong indications she's planning to announce her run there. When reached this morning, Jayapal would not confirm.

The race for the 7th Congressional District has been a guessing game ever since 14-term Congressman Jim McDermott announced in early January that he'd be retiring. So far, State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw and King County Council Member Joe McDermott (no relation to the Congressman) have announced they're running. Walkinshaw lives on Capitol Hill and McDermott lives in West Seattle. Jayapal would be the first candidate in the race from South Seattle. (In fact, she doesn't actually live in the 7th Congressional District, but candidates for Congress don't have to live in the district they want to represent.)

Jayapal will immediately become a frontrunner and—in a field of all Democrats—will likely be the candidate of the progressive left if she runs. In Olympia, she has pushed for a statewide increase to the minimum wage and stronger voting rights. This week, she unveiled a bill that would provide state residents with free community college. (Expect that to get a mention as she makes her announcement today at a community college.)

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Born in India, Jayapal previously founded and led the immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica and is now the only woman of color in the state senate. As Josh Feit at Publicola pointed out this morning, Seattle has lately shown an interest in electing women and people of color. That, combined with Jayapal's strong reputation as a social justice advocate and her ability to rack up endorsements and money, mean she'll be an incredibly strong contender from the start. Jayapal isn't up for reelection to the state senate this year, so unless she steps down, she'll be able to keep her job if she loses.

When I spoke with David Rolf, president of Service Employees International Union 775, earlier this month about a possible Jayapal run, he said Jayapal would be an easy frontrunner. And, while not an official endorsement, he seemed hopeful. "The 7th should only send movement progressives" to Congress, Rolf said.

Jayapal's announcement is at 2:30. We'll update you afterward.