Summer Lee, a state representative who was first elected to the state House in 2018, is an attorney who backs a $15 minimum wage, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for All.
According to a recent study by an affiliated organization, progressives are finding themselves in a rare situation in the primary for an open blue seat close to Pittsburgh: supporting the leader.
In the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), state representative Summer Lee has a commanding 25-point lead, according to a new survey commissioned by EMILY's List, which is supporting Lee. She has the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Her victory serves as a reminder that vacant seats are an excellent opportunity for the left to expand its numbers following a sad string of defeats in 2021, particularly in cases where long-serving Democratic members have resigned or redistricting has created a new seat.
Approximately 30 Democratic incumbents have declared their intention to depart Congress this year. Even those leaving strong blue districts will have an impact on the composition of the House in 2023 if they are replaced by more progressive candidates. Those in swing seats endanger the party's already precarious hold on its razor-thin majority.
Lee, a lawyer, was first elected to the state House in 2018 and is in favor of the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a $15 minimum wage. When she won her state House seat with backing from a neighborhood Democratic Socialists of America chapter, she defeated a longstanding incumbent.
Justice Democrats, a leftist group that established its name supporting underdog challenges to steadfast Democratic incumbents, have also endorsed her.
Lawyer Steve Irwin and law professor Jerry Dickinson are Lee's two main challengers in the May 17 primary. Lee garnered 38% of the vote in the late March survey. They each received 7% and 13% respectively. A little over 40% were unsure.
GQR Research surveyed 400 potential Democratic primary voters between March 26 and March 31. There is a 4.9 percent error margin. With a 39/10 favorability rating, Lee had a 61 percent name ID among the respondents polled.
Summer Lee is the courageous and motivating leader we need to win the crucial open seat, according to Laphonza Butler, head of EMILY's List, who also noted that Lee would become the state's first Black congresswoman.
Rep. Mike Doyle, who is retiring, was originally elected in 1994 and is the delegation's elder statesman for Pennsylvania. The left-leaning Democrat who supported labor has previously faced opposition, including from Dickinson in 2020, but easily won reelection.
Progressives have concentrated their efforts more this year on trying to gain new seats rather than mounting the difficult task of unseating longstanding incumbents after failing in Ohio, Louisiana, and Virginia last year. Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Cori Bush, two of the six members of the popular progressive organization known as "the Squad," earned their seats by upsetting incumbents in primaries (D-Mo.).
However, the retirement of seasoned members like Doyle presents important new opportunities. Greg Casar, a progressive member of the Austin City Council, defeated stiff competition to win the deep blue primary for the open seat in central Texas last month. Additionally, the Dallas-based seat of departing Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is being held by left-leaning state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who is currently in the lead.
Before Pennsylvania's redistricting process was finished, Doyle declared his retirement in mid-October. His constituency remained a strongly blue one that Joe Biden would have won by 20 points in the 2020 presidential election.
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