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Summer Lee projected to win another hard-fought primary in PA-12

Rep. Summer Lee (PA-12) celebrates her victory in the Democratic primary in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Credit: Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 23, 2024

PITTSBURGH – U.S. Rep. Summer Lee was projected to win the Democratic primary election for PA-12, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. 

Lee jumped ahead early with mail-in votes shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. The AP called the race at  9:21 p.m.

“We sent a message,” Lee told a throng of supporters at an election night party in Downtown Pittsburgh. “This movement is stronger than every GOP billionaire, stronger than any opportunist stronger than everybody who wants to say that the power of the people is not stronger than the people in power. But we knew.”

Her victory appeared to be decisive: With 88% of the vote counted at 10:27 p.m Tuesday, Lee had 61.3% of the vote to Patel’s 38.7%.

Patel thanked supporters in a concession statement posted to social media.

“While we didn’t get the result we wanted tonight, I’m feeling extremely grateful,” she wrote. “To our incredible network of supporters, and to everyone who cast a ballot today. Thank you. Everything is on the line this November — and the work is just getting started.”

The 2024 primary for Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, which includes the city of Pittsburgh, a large chunk of Allegheny County and part of Westmoreland County, was a knock-down, drag-out battle with a relatively unknown challenger seeking to unseat a rising star of the progressive movement. It attracted national attention and thousands of dollars in outside donations, and may serve as a harbinger for how Democrats will fare in the November general election among its progressive voters.

PA-12 is a reliably blue district, and the Democrat who wins the primary election is heavily favored to win the general election in November. Lee’s challenger Bhavini Patel, Edgewood Borough Councilmember,  criticized Lee for not being supportive enough of President Joe Biden’s agenda, and for her stance on the Israel-Gaza war. But Biden thanked Lee during a recent speech in Pittsburgh suggesting Lee has more support within the party than her detractors have portrayed. 

Lee criticized Patel for receiving contributions from wealthy donors, most notably a PAC associated with billionaire Jeffrey Yass, who Patel claimed she renounced. Patel has cited her experience as the daughter of immigrants and working in local government as key reasons she’s qualified to lead the district.

This is not the first time Lee has faced a primary challenger from the center of the Democratic party and a flood of outside money against her in PA-12; she dealt with similar opposition in 2022. In her first election to office in 2018, she beat a well-known incumbent in western Pennsylvania politics to win a seat in the state House, part of a blue wave of progressives who took office largely to challenge the Donald Trump-led GOP and stir up the Democratic Party.

The first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania, Lee has continued to defy the odds; she told supporters at her reelection campaign kickoff that she was “battle-tested.” In the fourth quarter, she raised more than  $1 million — the most of any of Pennsylvania’s U.S. House delegation. Ninety percent of that was donations under $250. In the most recent quarter, Lee raised more than triple the amount Patel raised.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.