May 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Summer Lee wins PA House primary in triumph for the Squad

Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee
Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee has emerged victorious in the Democratic primary for an open U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: The result marks another win for progressives this week in a pitched nationwide battle with more establishment Democrats for ideological control of the party.

Driving the news: As of Friday, Lee had 41.8% of the vote to establishment-backed attorney Steve Irwin's 41.1%, according to the Pennsylvania secretary of state.

  • The race was tight enough that votes had to be counted for three days after primary day before the election was called by the AP.

The backdrop: Lee, a supporter of progressive policy planks like Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, won her state House seat in 2018 with the backing of the Democratic Socialists of America, defeating a 20-year incumbent.

  • Irwin, a political newcomer, had the backing of Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who's retirement left the Pittsburgh-based seat up for grabs.
  • Lee had endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Congressional Progressive Caucus and several members of the Squad.

Big picture: This week's primaries in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, Idaho and Oregon were a mixed bag for progressives, but ultimately saw them come away with wins in several major contests.

  • The biggest win was Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman's more than 30-point clobbering of moderate Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) in the state's U.S. Senate primary.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)-backed Jamie McLeod-Skinner is also on track to unseat centrist Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) — a blow to President Biden, who gave Schrader one of his rare endorsements.
  • In House races in Kentucky and North Carolina, however, progressives fared poorly, with progressive former North Carolina state Sen. Erica Smith losing to moderate state Sen. Don Davis by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

What's next: Lee is a clear favorite to win her general election, as her district voted for Biden in 2020 by 20 points.

The Squad is also poised to gain another potential member in Greg Casar, the Democratic nominee in a heavily Democratic district in Austin and San Antonio, Texas.

  • Another possible opportunity is in Texas' 28th district, where Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) progressive Jessica Cisneros faces centrist in a runoff on Tuesday.
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