Summer Lee, a Progressive Democrat, Wins House Primary in Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH — State Representative Summer Lee, a progressive Democrat who could become the first black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress, won an expensive and fiercely contested primary after three days of vote counting on Friday, defeating a more centrist contender who was the favorite of the party establishment.

After a series of primary losses for the national left movement in 2021 and a mixed record in the early months of 2022, Ms Lee’s narrow victory, cited by The Associated Press, amounts to a significant victory for that part of the party. amid a fierce struggle for the direction of the Democratic Party that will play out in races across the country in the coming weeks.

Ms Lee, 34, who overcame heavy external expenditures against her, had the support of leading progressive figures including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and local figures like Mayor Ed Gainey Pittsburgh and some working groups. Mr. Sanders recently held a rally with Ms. Lee.

“People took on the companies and the people won,” Ms Lee said in a statement.

Ms. Lee defeated her chief rival, Steve Irwin, an attorney and former head of the Pennsylvania Securities Commission who had garnered significant support from the party establishment. Mr. Irwin received the support of Representative Mike Doyle, whose resignation opened the seat.

In a statement before the race was announced, Mr. Irwin called Ms. Lee a “passionate, dynamic voice and strong leader for our region.”

Even before the race was called, left-leaning leaders and organizations within the party were declaring victory, while more moderate party strategists seemed demoralized by the outcome, even as more centrist candidates won other races that week.

“For an obscene amount of black money, Summer Lee has won an overwhelming victory,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s team said in an appeal for donations. Their “victory demonstrates the strength of the growing, organized, progressive and democratic socialist movement,” the message said.

Among the outside groups that intervened in the race was a super PAC working with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which paid for a barrage of advertising attacking Ms. Lee.

She also defeated candidates like Jerry Dickinson, an associate law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Ms. Lee, who won a state house primary in 2018 with support from the Democratic Socialists of America, is a supporter of sweeping policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, and she has spoken out strongly on the need to defend abortion rights and fight racial injustice.

Greater Pittsburgh’s 12th District is considered Safely Democratic in the general election.

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