Politics runs in the family: Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s sister wins Multnomah County Commission seat

Susheela Jayapal, the older sister of U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, on Tuesday beat out three rivals to win a seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in Portland.

Jim Brunner

Two years ago, Seattle’s Pramila Jayapal became the first Indian-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, her older sister joined her as an elected leader, winning a seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in Portland, Oregon. Susheela Jayapal grabbed 57 percent of the vote in the four-person race, according to Willamette Week.

Because she received more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, she wins the nonpartisan seat without a fall runoff election.

Democratic Rep. Jayapal congratulated her sister Tuesday night on Twitter, writing: “She ran an incredible race and won outright with 57 percent of the vote. Multnomah County, she will be a strong progressive champion for you!”

A nonprofit leader and former general counsel for Adidas America, Susheela Jayapal was born in India and moved to the U.S. at age 16 to attend college, according to her campaign biography. She graduated at age 20 and worked as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs before graduating from law school. Two decades ago, she left the legal field to dedicate her time to nonprofits, including Planned Parenthood and the Portland Schools Foundation.

Like her sister, Susheela Jayapal is a trailblazer. She is the first person who was born in South Asia to be elected to office in Oregon, according to The Economic Times, an English-language newspaper in India. She ran as a progressive in Portland, emphasizing issues that will sound familiar to Seattle voters, including housing affordability and homelessness prevention.

Politics often runs in families in the Pacific Northwest, as elsewhere. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s father was a powerful Democratic state legislator. The Pierce County Council includes the mother-son combo of Republicans Pam Roach and Dan Roach.

But it’s still rare to see siblings holding office at the same time.

One example in Washington: Rob Snaza was elected sheriff of Lewis County in 2014; his identical twin brother, John Snaza, is sheriff of adjacent Thurston County.

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