Lindsay Peyton
Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal's official swearing in to represent Washington’s 7th Congressional District was Tuesday, Jan. 3. She had a lot to do before then, including setting up her office in the nation’s capital and renting an apartment in the area, hiring 18 staff members, planning for mobile offices across her district and preparing arguments for committee assignments.

Pramila presses on -- Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal poised to take next steps, ready to protect and fight for constituents’ rights

By Lindsay Peyton

Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal has a long to-do list.

Her official swearing in to represent Washington’s 7th Congressional District was Tuesday, Jan. 3.

“There’s was nothing official until then,” she said. “But on the technical and organizational side, there was a lot of work to do.”

She is setting up her office in the nation’s capital and renting an apartment in the area, hiring 18 staff members, planning for mobile offices across her district and preparing arguments for committee assignments.

On top of everything else, she’s looking to buy a house. “West Seattle is number one on my list of places where I want to live,” she said.

The week of the inauguration, she will host an open house at her office, welcome her visiting constituents and then begin planning roundtable discussions for the month, reaching out to stakeholders in business, women’s issues and environmental concerns.

“We’ll be putting together our legislative priorities as well,” Jayapal said.

And she plans to participate in the Million Women March on Saturday, Jan. 21, protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president.

The occasion was historic when Jayapal was elected as the first woman to represent her district, the first person of color to serve the Washington State Democratic delegation and the first South Asian woman to serve the U.S. House of Representatives.

But her win was overshadowed, she explained, by the election of a president who stands in such direct opposition of her values.

Jayapal said the news took her by surprise. “I had speeches prepared for if I lost, if I tied or if I won,” she said. “But every single one of them mentioned Hillary as president.”

The results finally came in. “It was really a difficult moment,” she said. “It was bittersweet. So many gathered and were so ecstatic that we won, that our platform won and that our message won.”

Her supporters were concerned, however, considering the political climate she will face when taking office.

“In the months since then, I’ve realized that my role now takes on even greater importance,” Jayapal said.

She said she’s ready to stand up and fight for the rights of all Americans against attacks from a Republican-controlled Congress and presidency.
She believes that her past experience has prepared her -- standing up for immigration rights as founder of nonprofit OneAmerica and fighting against the Bush presidency for civil liberty abuses.

Jayapal added that uniting diverse groups will be key to keeping progressive politics in motion. “I am talking about issues that affect all of us, and I’m providing a place at the table for everybody,” she said. “Economic and racial inequity are entwined. A lot of folks are suffering from the lack of economic opportunity.”

She said that breaking down barriers to wealth – including sexism, racism and lack of access to a quality education – is of utmost importance.

Jayapal added that the movement behind her election must take an offensive stance.

“We need to protect health insurance, social security, public education, the climate, the ability for people to earn a living,” she said. “We’re going to be protectors. But through resistance, we can show what we stand for. We can introduce legislation – and we can use public office to inspire and motivate people.” 

Still, Jayapal said that there are a number of reasons to remain hopeful. She has personally been inspired by Lisa Blunt Rochester, who became the first woman and the first African- American to be elected to Congress from Delaware, as well as Florida’s Stephanie Murphy, who will be the first Vietnamese-American woman member of Congress.

“Some of us are breaking barriers,” she said. “I really believe, we are seeing a backlash because of our success. If we were irrelevant, people wouldn’t feel threatened.”

Jayapal intends to set up a strong outreach team in the district. “We need to have a space for people to come together,” she said. “We have to remember we’re stronger together – and that we’ve had these fights before.”

Marcee Stone-Vekich, chair of the 34th District Democrats, is also trying to remain hopeful and organize action.

“A lot of people have been complacent in the Democratic party in the past couple of years,” Stone-Vekich said. “Now they’re coming out in droves and trying to figure out what they can do to help. There’s a real thirst for knowledge about what they can do.”

She encourages Jayapal to keep an eye out for ways to improve transit and support union jobs in the district, as well as methods to improve housing.

“It really all comes down to education, and I hope she can find a way to get some robust funding for education, housing and social services,” Stone-Vekich said. “But the challenges will be ever-greater because of who has been elected.”

For more information about the 34th District Democrats, visit hwww.34dems.org.

For more information about Pramila Jayapal, visit www.pramilaforcongress.com.

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