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Progressive Summer Lee Declares Victory in Pennsylvania Primary With Slim Margin

If her victory is confirmed, Lee will face off against Republican Mike Doyle.

Pennsylvania Democratic Congressional candidate, State Rep. Summer Lee, talks to the press outside her polling station at the Paulson Recreation Center after voting with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey on May 17, 2022, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Summer Lee declared victory late Tuesday in the Democratic primary race to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House, voicing confidence that the remaining uncounted votes will favor her campaign over corporate attorney Steve Irwin’s.

With 93% of precincts reporting, Lee holds a 446-vote lead over Irwin, a former Republican U.S. Senate staffer who benefited from super PAC cash that poured into the district in the contest’s final stretch. Irwin has not conceded defeat as the race remains too close to formally call.

United Democracy Project (UDP), a super PAC founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), spent nearly $3 million in recent weeks boosting Irwin and attacking Lee, a progressive state representative who supports Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and Palestinian rights.

“The people took on the corporations and the people won,” Lee said in a statement. “We built a movement in Western Pennsylvania that took on corporate power, stood up for working families, and beat back a multimillion-dollar smear campaign.”

“This was never about one candidate — it was about the people of this district who have been left behind by corporations who put their profits over our lives,” she added. “Today is a new way forward for everyone in the Commonwealth with no one left behind.”

PA United, a group that ran a major field operation for Lee alongside Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party, said Wednesday morning that “as a long time leader of the progressive movement and the first Black woman to be elected as a state representative from Western PA, Summer’s campaign energized a strong multiracial, working class base and overcame the political machine yet again.”

“PA United is proud to have helped Summer Lee overcome massive spending by her opponents and AIPAC and help supercharge her ground game,” the organization added. “The supercharged field program is likely to have provided the margin of victory — knocking more than 30,000 doors, calling more than 35,000 people, and sending 25,000 texts to help ensure a victory. PA United will continue to stand by Rep. Lee through the November election and as she gets to work in Congress next year.”

The youth-led Sunrise Movement, which also led a turnout operation in support of Lee in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, declared in a statement that “this election pit people power against millions of dollars, and… Summer Lee proved that money is surmountable when you organize and run on a progressive platform.”

“Young and working people were able to defeat Super PACs through local organizing,” said Varshini Prakash, the group’s executive director. “We showed our power, we knocked on doors, we called voters, and we decided this election.”

If her victory is confirmed, Lee will face off against Republican Mike Doyle, the council president of Plum, Pennsylvania who ran unopposed in the GOP primary.

“We got here because of the power of the people,” Lee said during her election party Tuesday night.

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