The Lead

Rep. Summer Lee garners endorsements from Democratic House leadership

By: - January 17, 2024 7:44 am

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee of Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy Summer Lee)

Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-12th District) received endorsements from the top U.S. House Democratic leadership on Wednesday, including House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), Whip Katherine Clark (MA-15), and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (CA-33) for her re-election campaign.

The statement noted Lee is the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress, and a civil rights champion who advocates for organized labor.

 “Since her first days in Congress, Summer has been a fighter For The People – working to keep our communities safe, create good-paying union jobs and protect fundamental rights like reproductive freedom,” the three said in a joint statement. “We proudly endorse Summer Lee’s re-election campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives so she can help us take back the House majority, oppose the extreme MAGA Republican agenda and continue our tremendous progress for Pennsylvanians.”

Although Lee is an incumbent and it’s not unusual for party leaders to support members seeking reelection, Lee is one of several progressive Democrats including Cori Bush (D-MO.) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) who have primary challengers, and have drawn criticism for speaking out against the war in Israel, and supporting a ceasefire.

“I hope that he will speak out as urgently and aggressively as those who are speaking out against us,” Lee told Politico in November, referring to Jeffries.

Lee has already received endorsements from Pennsylvania elected Democrats, including U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, a fellow progressive who rose through the ranks with Lee after winning elections in the 2018 “blue wave.”

Lee has faced criticism from her primary opponent Bhavini Patel for having a “national agenda,” telling the Capital-Star when she launched her campaign in October that “it’s absolutely imperative that we elect somebody who’s willing to be a strong ally to the president.”

Lee also took criticism for not signing on to a House resolution expressing support for Israel and condemning Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack that left more than 1,400 people dead. She expressed concern for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. But, Lee said in October that “the violence Hamas unleashed in Israel, particularly the horrific kidnapping and killing of over a thousand innocent civilians and children, is horrifying, unjustifiable, and must be condemned.”

Another candidate has announced she also plans to challenge Lee in the Democratic primary. Laurie MacDonald, president and CEO of the Center for Victims and native of the Mon Valley region, said in a press release last week that she is a “moderate, ” who has “deeply rooted life experience, a strong understanding of all our unique communities and cultures.”

Patel announced Tuesday she had received endorsements from the Operating Engineers Local #66, Steamfitters Local Union 449, and SMART (Sheet, Metal, Air, Railroad and Transportation Workers) unions. She announced earlier this month her campaign raised $310,000 in the fourth quarter.

Lee has not yet released her fundraising for the fourth quarter; Federal Election Commission reports are due at the end of the month.

“Our progressive movement is creating a blueprint, not just for Western Pennsylvania, but for our entire country for what it looks like to beat Trumpism by leading with compassion and equity and justice,” Lee said in a statement Wednesday. “I’m honored to have the support from Leaders Jeffries, Clark, and Aguilar – and I look forward to continuing to work with them to protect abortion access, voting rights, and clean energy investments to serve the people of PA’s 12th Congressional District.”

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly