The frontrunner for a Pennsylvania House seat is a Democratic socialist backed by Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., whose political path mirrors that of far-left Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee, a progressive Democrat, is running to replace retiring Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., who has served in Congress since 1995.
Lee has openly endorsed several socialist policies — including the redistribution of wealth — as well as controversial progressive policies like abolishing prisons.
HARRISBURG, PA – FEBRUARY 21: Pennsylvania state House Rep. Summer Lee is photographed at the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Thursday, February 21, 2019, in Harrisburg, PA. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
“Instead of ‘thanking’ Black women, Black voters, and especially, Black organizers… give us the investments we need and deserve, redistribute wealth, ends police violence, abolish the carceral state, commit to building Black directed political power… and reparations,” Lee tweeted in November 2020.
Similar to her rhetoric, Lee’s career as a state representative draws comparisons between her and Ocasio-Cortez: both women defeated long-established members of their respective governing bodies in 2018 and ran on similar progressive platforms.
Ocasio-Cortez defeated former Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., whom many predicted would become Speaker of the House before his surprise primary upset, to secure her seat in Congress. Lee also defeated a long-standing incumbent, primarying Democrat former Pennsylvania state Rep. Paul Costa and ending his two-decade career in the state legislature.
Additionally, Lee’s platform runs in the same circle as the “Squad” leader herself, pushing “Medicare for All,” tacking “justice” onto several of her progressive policies to capitalize on the buzzword, and making several wild claims ranging from the state of American Democracy to immigration policies.
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 16: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) speaks as (L-R) Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) listen during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol June 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. Speaker Pelosi held a news conference to announce members of the newly established Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. (Alex Wong)
“Throughout our nation’s history, we have never delivered on the promises of democracy,” Lee claims in the “Democracy and Voting Rights” section of her website. “The legacies of slavery and Jim Crow have carried on through voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, and voter suppression making the ballot box inaccessible, especially for poor, Black and brown people across the country.”
Lee also claimed that the U.S. “government’s rules have also failed to fulfill the promise of democracy” and called for an “end outdated and arbitrary laws” as well as to give “every person in our country with the right to vote – from previously incarcerated people to immigrants, everyone deserves a voice in our democracy.”
The Pennsylvania progressive is also running on packing the Supreme Court “so that right-wing extremists cannot strip away our fundamental rights” and to “end lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land.”
Lee also calls for an end to the filibuster, which she claims is “a tool championed by segregationist Senators to oppose civil rights legislation, that continues to stand in the way of progress today.”
“No human being is illegal. Our immigration system is a broken web of xenophobic policies that seek to punish brown and Black people instead of building pathways to citizenship,” Lee claims on her “Immigration” tab.
HARRISBURG, PA – FEBRUARY 21: Pennsylvania state House Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, left, Rep. Sara Innamorato, center, and Rep. Summer Lee prepare to go on air for an interview with local TV station on Thursday, February 21, 2019, in Harrisburg, PA. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Lee also calls for an end to “life without parole” as well as “eliminating cash bail because our current system, which imprisons people based on their ability to pay, is a barbaric relic that punishes the poor for their poverty.”
“Our constitutional right to abortion care faces the greatest threat in its history, and Congress must do everything in its power to protect this fundamental right,” Lee writes under “Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice.”
“We must not only safeguard the federal right to abortion, but also repeal laws like the Hyde amendment which puts care out of reach for marginalized and low-income communities,” she claims.
The Hyde Amendment is a bipartisan law that prohibits federal funds from going toward abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.
Lee has secured endorsements from high-profile progressive groups, including the Ocasio-Cortez-linked Justice Democrats, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, and the Sunrise Movement.
The Pennsylvania Democrat has also been backed by the controversial Emgage PAC — the sister organization to Emgage Action, which has been decried by Republican senators as “anti-Israel” — and the Way to Lead PAC, a progressive group founded by “Squad” Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., that supports defunding the police.
Additionally, Lee has been endorsed by a slew of prominent progressives, including “Squad” Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., in the House as well as Warren and Sanders in the Senate.
DES MOINES, IA – NOVEMBER 09: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is joined on stage by Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the Climate Crisis Summit at Drake University on November 9, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and author Naomi Klein spoke about the current state of climate change in relation to U.S. policy. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
According to her Federal Elections Commission(FEC) data, Lee has also paid thousands of dollars to the Justice Democrats’ go-to digital communications firm, Middle Seat Consulting, which supports“campaigns, organizations, and causes fighting for racial justice, climate action, immigrant rights, intersectional feminism, economic justice, and more.”
Lee’s endorsements have put her in the primeprimary position against her Democratic primary opponents as she looks to take the blue party’s nomination for the vacating seat.
However, securing the Democratic nomination is not the same as punching a ticket to Congress, especially in historically purple Pennsylvania. The state went red in the 2016 presidential election while going blue in 2020.
WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 18: Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) leaves the Will Rogers Hallway following a television interview at the U.S. Capitol on November 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Democratic leaders in the House are waiting on the final Congressional Budget Office cost estimate for President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better before scheduling a vote on the $1.75 trillion social benefits and climate legislation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
This goes especially for the upcoming 2022 midterms, where Republicans are expected to make serious gains in the House and potentially the Senate.
That said, after being a solid blue stronghold since the past millennia, Doyle’s vacating seat shows little sign of changing — it is still ranked a solid Democrat seat by political pollsters. This means that whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely be heading to Congress next January.
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