IN a crowded contest for Seattle’s 37th Legislative District state Senate seat, Pramila Jayapal stands out for the breadth and depth of her civic involvement.

The Democrat is a passionate and effective social-justice activist, armed with an MBA and experience in the private financial sector. She is the founder and former head of the immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica. In just the last year, she has been named a “champion of change” by the White House, co-chaired Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s police chief search committee and was a member of the panel that created an incremental path to a $15 minimum wage in the city.

It’s about time this woman ran for office. That said, her election would test her ability to balance a progressive streak with pragmatism and the ability to reach across the aisle to find compromise.

The 37th District — which covers southeast to central Seattle, Renton, Tukwila and parts of King County — needs strong leadership to overcome widespread disparities in education attainment, income and health outcomes.

Stronger schools, from early learning though higher education, are the keys to closing those gaps.

Jayapal should strive for independence on issues that might not always appease the many liberal and labor groups that have endorsed her, including Fuse Washington, four separate SEIU unions and the Washington Education Association.

On education, she must remember the Legislature’s top priority is to fix a broken system, not to prop up unfunded mandates.

Among her opponents, Sheley Secrest, attorney and former Seattle King County NAACP president, holds promise and should consider running for other civic positions. Same goes for substitute teacher and three-time legislative candidate John Stafford, whose substantive knowledge of policy is head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).