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Summer Lee, Others Score Decisive Wins in Triumphant Night for Progressives

Wins for candidates like Summer Lee, Maxwell Frost and Greg Casar have showcased progressives’ growing power.

Pennsylvania Democratic Congressional candidate, state Rep. Summer Lee talks to the press outside her polling station at the Paulson Recreation Center on May 17, 2022, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Election night was a triumph for a handful of progressive U.S. House candidates across the country who clinched decisive victories despite, in some cases, fierce anti-progressive campaigns waged against them.

Pennsylvania’s Summer Lee, Florida’s Maxwell Frost, Illinois’s Delia Ramirez, Texas’s Greg Casar and Vermont’s Becca Balint are either vastly ahead of their opponents as of Wednesday morning or have decisively won their races with wide margins. Each candidate is a supporter of critical measures like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, and has scored major endorsements from key progressives, including progressive Squad members and Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).

The candidates will join existing progressive members of Congress (all of whom easily won reelection on Tuesday), growing the left’s power within the legislative branch and perhaps demonstrating voters’ appetite for left-leaning candidates. This is a rebuke of narratives pushed by corporate Democrats that the left flank of the party is too “extremist”; rather, as progressives contend, they stand behind some of the most popular policy ideas in the U.S.

Though these candidates ran in comfortably blue districts, their paths to victory weren’t necessarily easy. Lee, for instance, faced an over $2 million campaign waged against her by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — a pro-Israel group that has successfully helped defeat progressive candidates like Michigan Rep. Andy Levin (D), Nina Turner in Ohio, Jessica Cisneros in Texas, Nida Allam in North Carolina, and others.

Despite AIPAC’s efforts, Lee’s win was called on Wednesday morning. She triumphed over her opponent, Republican Mike Doyle, by over 9 points, according to the New York Times.

In Oregon, progressive candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner could lose to deep-pocketed, AIPAC-tied interests. McLeod-Skinner, who had ousted conservative Democrat Rep. Kurt Schrader in the primary, faced attacks from an AIPAC-tied Democratic Super PAC before the primary election. Critically, the support she received from Democratic committees was not as strong as the support her Republican opponent, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, received from the Republican Party.

As of Wednesday morning, The New York Times has the race as a tossup, with Chavez-DeRemer 4 points ahead and 70 percent of the votes in.

Other progressive candidates cruised to victory. Greg Casar, a former Texas city council member and a leader of Texas’s progressive movement, won by a 45-point margin to the next candidate, with most votes counted in their districts. Delia Ramirez, who will be the first Latina to represent the Midwest in Congress, defeated Republican opponent Justin Burau by 33.6 points. Becca Balint, who will be the first woman and first LGBTQ person to represent Vermont in Congress, won by 35 points.

Among these candidates, Frost’s race was the closest — and Frost, whose candidacy generated buzz among the left, still won by 19.5 points. He will be the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress, and has a background in activism with the anti-gun-violence group March for Our Lives.

Other left-of-center candidates who won their races include Pennsylvania’s Chris Deluzio and Texas’s Jasmine Crockett.

The Working Families Party (WFP), which had endorsed these candidates and a number of other Democratic and progressive hopefuls, celebrated key wins.

“Summer Lee is a people’s champion, and this is a victory for the people,” said WFP Pennsylvania Organizing Director Nicolas O’Rourke in a statement. The group noted that Lee joins WFP-endorsed Balint, Casar, Crockett, Frost and Ramirez in heading to Congress.

“Right-wing and corporate forces spent millions of dollars on negative ads to smear a Black progressive woman, but our grassroots movement could not be stopped,” O’Rourke said. “Summer is going to join a growing bench of Working Families Democrats in Congress who will fight for higher wages, lower costs, safe communities, and clean air and water.”

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