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Summer Lee is the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania

Democrat Summer Lee beat Republican Mike Doyle to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.

By Nick Vachon - November 10, 2022
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Summer Lee
FILE - Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee speaks to supporters before being endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the Democratic Party nomination for the state's 12th Congressional District during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh on May 12, 2022. In Pittsburgh, Democrats were concerned about potential voter confusion because the Republican running against Lee is named Mike Doyle, the same name as the city's longtime Democratic congressman, who is retiring at the end of the year. Lee won the race and will become the first Black congresswoman from Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke, File)

Summer Lee, a state representative and labor activist, has been elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. Lee defeated Republican businessman Mike Doyle, becoming the first Black woman to win election to Congress from the state.

The Democratic incumbent in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, also named Mike Doyle, is retiring after 14 terms in the House. Republican Doyle conceded Tuesday night after Lee opened up a 10-point lead; the Associated Press called the race for Lee Wednesday morning.

“We fought, we built coalitions. We brought together people who had never worked together on campaigns,” Lee told the crowd at an event on Tuesday night, according to the website TribLive in western Pennsylvania. Crediting “a multiracial, multigenerational movement from all over this district, from Westmoreland to the South Hills to the city of Pittsburgh to the Mon Valley” for her victory, Lee thanked her supporters, saying, “I am so proud of the work that everyone in this movement has done.”

Lee, who was first elected to represent the 34th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2018, narrowly won a close-fought primary battle in May against Steve Irwin, who was backed by much of the state’s Democratic establishment.

Lee, whose endorsers ranged from Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Bob Casey to House “Squad” members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, and Rashida Tlaib to environmental, labor, gun safety, and abortion rights organizations, ran on a progressive platform and championed policies such as the Green New Deal, free public college, and Medicare for All.

Lee had been targeted in the campaign by Republicans and some Democrats, including her primary opponent, Irwin, over comments she had made on Twitter as violence was rising in Israel and the Gaza Strip: “When I hear American pols use the refrain “Israel has the right to defend itself” in response to undeniable atrocities on a marginalized pop, I can’t help but think of how the west has always justified indiscriminate& disproportionate force &power on weakened & marginalized ppl,” she tweeted on May 14, 2021. “The US has nvr shown leadership in safeguarding human rights of folks its othered. But as we fight against injustice here in the mvmnt for Blk lives, we must stand against injustice everywhere. Inhumanities against the Palestinian ppl cannot be tolerated or justified.”

In addition to suggesting Lee was unqualified for the House because she “just hasn’t been around long enough,” Irwin said in an interview with the website Jewish Insider in April: “The things that she has suggested and said do not indicate a strong conviction that Israel has a right to exist and is recognized as a valid Jewish homeland. To deny Israel’s central place in Judaism is a real problem for me.”

Lee’s campaign manager responded: “State Rep Lee has always supported Israel’s right to exist, and her opponent should point to any statements she has made that indicate otherwise. … She believes that the US should hold all its closest allies accountable to international law and human rights standards.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, ran ads against Lee both in the primary and in the general election. In total, the United Democracy Project, a super PAC affiliated with AIPAC, spent more than $3 million opposing Lee; in the final weeks of the general election, it spent nearly $1 million running ads attacking Lee for her “extreme” views.

In response to AIPAC backing a Republican against Lee, 240 Jewish voters in Pittsburgh signed an open letter condemning the group.

“We’re also outraged that at this critical moment in American history, AIPAC has chosen to cast Democrats like Lee as extremists, while continuing to endorse 109 GOP Members of Congress who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results on January 6th,” the letter said.

Doyle, her Republican opponent in the district, opposed abortion rights and described himself as an “election integrity” candidate, a term often used by Republicans to suggest that American elections are characterized by systemic voter fraud, a claim for which there is no evidence.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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