Two of our very first Blue America candidates, a decade ago, were Alan Grayson and Donna Edwards, who have been inspirations from the moment they ran, won and started pushing their strong progressive agendas in the House. These are two admirable people who have made a substantive difference in a screwed up, largely dysfunctional Congress. Grayson, in fact, passed more legislation than any other member of Congress, even with the House under GOP control! Now both Donna Edwards and Alan Grayson are leaving the House and running for the Senate. (You can contribute to either or both of their Senate campaigns here on the Blue America Senate page.)
But our concern this week is about who will replace their powerful, brilliant leadership in the House. And we think we found her: Washington state Senator Pramila Jayapal.
She’s running for the seat her political ally, Jim McDermott, is retiring from in Seattle. It’s a deep blue district and the winner of the Democratic primary is virtually guaranteed the congressional seat. (Obama won the district with 80% in 2008 and 79% in 2012.)
Senator Jayapal has been a lot like Grayson, in fact, strongly progressive and reform-minded and known as a serious legislator who works across the aisle to pass sensible legislation, even in a state Senate controlled by the GOP. “I’m running for Congress,” she told us Friday, “because our system is rigged for corporations and the wealthy, but we can fight back. The time has come to tackle this inequality: we need to raise the minimum wage, expand Social Security and Medicare, and ensure debt-free college for young people across America.”
And if you think that sounds familiar… yes, she has officially endorsed Sanders. “The vision has to be to fundamentally change the system.” And when it come to the divisive issue of immigration her thinking is values-based and she pointed out that “we’re stronger because of our diversity; being American is defined by common beliefs, not common blood; by faith in each other, not in any one faith– that are at stake in this election. The choice before us is whether to continue to be a pluralistic society, where new ideas and varying perspective allow our cultural, economic and civic life to prosper as it has for 250 years– or to cower and retreat.
America is strong because we continually rise above the hate– not always in time, not always gracefully, and we will certainly continue to be tested. But still, we recognize that one of the truly defining factors of America– different than any other country in the world– is that we are a nation that has built its identity on the contribution of immigrants from all over the world, many who have escaped the worst terrors in order to gain freedom.
This week John Nichols pointed out for readers of The Nation that “Jayapal came to prominence more than a decade ago, when she founded the group Hate Free Zone to battle intolerance in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. ‘When September 11 happened, I just thought to myself that everything is going to change for people who look like me,’ said Jayapal, an immigrant from India. The group evolved into OneAmerica, an activist organization that focuses on advancing ‘the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state, and national levels by building power within immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies.’ … She won’t be pulling any punches, as was obvious at an announcement event where she ripped into ‘people like Donald Trump [who] are whipping up hate and fear across the country, resulting in a rise of anti-Muslim violence.’ [She] is amplifying messages that have been taken national by Sanders… ‘The vision has to be to fundamentally change the system,’ says Jayapal, who argues that ‘corporations and special interests have their voice in Congress, and they have too many members scared of their power. What Congress needs is a progressive voice who is unafraid to take on these powerful interests– who is willing to fight for all Americans, not just the wealthiest 1 percent.'”
We’re proud of all the Blue America candidates and we feel certain that Pramila Jayapal will stand strong like our favorite incumbents from Grayson, Edwards and McDermott, who are leaving, to Barbara Lee, Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan, and Ted Lieu, who will need courageous allies. Please consider contributing to Pramila’s campaign here on the Blue America main page.