OR-03, basically Portland and some suburbs, is the bluest district in the state, with a D+22 PVI and a partisan lean of D+43. Biden beat Trump there 72.5% to 25.2%. It includes most of Multnomah County and suburbs south of Portland in Clackamas County. When progressive icon Earl Blumenauer— elected in 1996— announced he would be retiring, half a dozen Democrats started buzzing about running. When looking for someone who would make an outstanding member of Congress, the most outstanding of the lot— by far— is Multnomah County Councilor Susheela Jayapal, endorsed today by Blue America. I asked her to introduce herself and I hope you’ll read the post she just wrote from Bangalore below. I also hope you’ll consider contributing to her campaign here and checking out more about her on her campaign website.
Restoring the Promise of America— for Everyone
-by Susheela Jayapal
I’m often asked how Pramila and I both ended up in politics-- and specifically, in progressive politics. Looking back, I see how our shared experiences and the values my parents lived by have led us here, to fighting for stronger, more equitable communities.
We were born in India. When I was seven and Pramila four, my father accepted a job in Indonesia. My parents had to search for the country on the map; they had no idea where it was. I used to think that their motivation was financial-- they had very little money, and perhaps it offered better pay. But that wasn’t it. They did it, my mother has told me, because she was curious. She wanted to see the world. And she wanted us to see the world. We later spent a couple of years in Singapore, and then back to Indonesia, where we both graduated from high school.
That jump into the unknown was a huge risk for my parents. But an even bigger risk was their decision to send us to the U.S. for college. It wiped out their small savings. Even more consequentially, they knew we likely wouldn’t return to India, where they wanted to stay, and where they still live today. But they did it because they were clear that what they wanted for us was the best education they could give us, and the opportunities it would provide. And they were right: that college education opened so many doors that would otherwise have been closed to us, including the rare privilege of serving in public office. So I know firsthand how important education is to leveling the playing field; I’ll fight for the right to free higher education and pathways to good-paying jobs and meaningful work for everyone.
I’m actually in Bangalore, India, as I write this— my mother recently had some surgery, and Pramila and I tag-teamed to come back and support her. Like countless families across the U.S., we’re now navigating what it means to take care of aging parents, both with significant health issues, inadequate health insurance, and very few options for long-term care. We are lucky enough to have Social Security and Medicare in our country, but the chasm between the high quality of care and the cost, and access is enormous and continues to grow. The right to health care and the ability to age with dignity are still two of the gaping holes in our safety net; we need a tightly woven net that supports people throughout their lifespan, and allows us to care for each other and for our community. I believe that passing Medicare for all and strengthening Social Security are two key elements of that strong safety net. These, too, I’ll fight for.
On my morning walks, I pass homes with the names of their owners on the front gates, and they attest to the diversity of this neighborhood and this country— Hindu, Christian, Muslim. In the nearby park, I hear people talking in a variety of Indian languages, as well as in English. This is how we grew up. In diverse Indian communities as well as in Southeast Asia, surrounded by people of different nationalities, faiths, economic circumstances, and life histories. The United States has been home for more than forty years, but those early experiences in other countries instilled the conviction that we are all connected globally as well as domestically; and a belief in the importance of the United States’ role in supporting democratic values, a sustainable environment, and stronger economies overseas, as well as here at home.
These experiences, and our parents’ values and dreams, were what we brought with us to the United States when we arrived, each of us when we were 16, to go to college.
I’ve carried all of that, along with my desire to pay forward the sacrifices my parents made, through my career in law, nonprofit work, and elected office. The values my parents acted upon— curiosity, creativity, openness to change and reinvention— have made the journey possible. Those early experiences of diversity have contributed to the deep-seated belief that our differences are a source of strength and abundance, and have built the skills to navigate through difference.
These are the shared values and experiences that have shaped each of our individual journeys, and that I’ll take with me if I have the privilege to join Pramila in Congress. To fight for our collective prosperity and wellness, and for the democracy, civil rights, and justice that are necessary to get there. I’ve been lucky enough that the promise of America has given me so much. But that isn’t true for many, even when you’re born here, and I fear that it’s only getting harder. We must do more, and better to restore the promise of America for everyone.