Summer Lee, ‘Squad’ Member, Wins Democratic House Primary in Pennsylvania

Summer Lee, ‘Squad’ Member, Wins Democratic House Primary in Pennsylvania

Representative Summer Lee, a first-term progressive Democrat, won her primary contest in western Pennsylvania on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, fending off a moderate challenger in a race that centered on her stance on the war in Gaza.

The primary, in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, presented one of this year’s first down-ballot tests of whether left-wing incumbents would be hurt by their opposition to Israel’s military campaign. After Ms. Lee for months faced scrutiny for voting against support for Israel, her victory was partly seen as a reflection of how public, and party, sentiment on the issue has appeared to shift in her favor.

Ms. Lee, who in 2022 was elected the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress and later joined the group of left-leaning lawmakers known as the Squad, defeated Bhavini Patel, a city councilwoman in Edgewood, Pa. Ms. Patel ran as a more moderate Democrat and tried to paint Ms. Lee as dismissive of voters who oppose her approach to the conflict in Gaza. The seat is considered safely Democratic in the general election.

A former state representative, Ms. Lee, 36, narrowly won a primary fight in the district two years ago against a centrist opponent favored by the party’s establishment. Her victory was heralded by left-leaning organizations and leaders as a win for the progressive movement.

This year, Ms. Lee, now the incumbent, garnered support across the Democratic spectrum. Her endorsers included Pennsylvania’s senators, House Democratic leaders, labor unions and the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, which opposed her candidacy in 2022. Progressive groups spent large sums on her behalf, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, stumped for her in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

In the fall, after Ms. Lee became one of the first Democrats to call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, pro-Israel groups expressed interest in backing a challenger. But a serious opponent never materialized. AIPAC, the pro-Israel group that is supporting challenges to some left-wing candidates and that spent heavily against Ms. Lee in 2022, focused its attention elsewhere. Polls have shown that discontent with Israel’s military actions has been growing among Americans in recent months.

Still, Ms. Lee drew criticism in her district from some Jewish voters, who said in the days before the election that they were unhappy with her positions on Israel. Ms. Patel, 30, also tried to cast her opponent as insufficiently supportive of President Biden. Ms. Lee has pledged to rally her coalition to support Mr. Biden this fall in Pennsylvania, a critical swing state.

Ms. Lee and her allies seized on Ms. Patel’s support from Jeff Yass, a prominent Republican donor in Pennsylvania who gave significantly to a super PAC supporting moderate Democrats. The group ran ads on behalf of Ms. Patel, who disavowed Mr. Yass and his support.

During the primary, Ms. Lee often promoted her record in Congress, including having brought federal dollars to the district, and framed her candidacy around supporting a more diverse Democratic Party and fighting Trump-aligned Republicans. She vastly out-raised Ms. Patel. In the last fund-raising quarter, Ms. Lee collected more than three times as much money as Ms. Patel did.

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