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Pro-Reparations Summer Lee Wins Pennsylvania DNC Primary, Fights Off Heavy AIPAC Funding, Dem Party Establishment

Pro-Reparations Summer Lee Wins Pennsylvania DNC Primary, Fights Off Heavy AIPAC Funding, Dem Party Establishment

Summer Lee

Photos: State Rep. Summer Lee, seeking the Democratic Party nomination for Pennsylvania's 12th District U.S. Congressional district, is endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a campaign stop in Pittsburgh, May 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke) / Steve Irwin, Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Steve_Irwin

Former labor organizer Summer Lee, 34, came out on top in the Pennsylvania 12th Congressional District Democratic primary on May 17, narrowly leading against DNC establishment favorite Steve Irwin in a tight race.

While the race is still too close to call, the pro-reparations progressive candidate Lee, 34, has declared victory. Irwin, a 62-year-old business and labor attorney, has yet to concede

Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district is located in north-central and northeastern Pennsylvania, including the Northern Tier region, parts of the Susquehanna Valley, State College and part of Happy Valley.

Lee and Irwin ended the night neck and neck while University of Pittsburgh Professor Jerry Dickinson, 35, trailed a distant third in the three-way race to represent the city of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas on the Democratic ticket, The Post-Gazette reported.

As of 6 a.m. on May 18, Lee had 46,589 votes to Irwin’s 46,143, according to Allegheny and Westmoreland County elections divisions. Dickinson had 12,154 votes.

Irwin has been an Allegheny County Democratic Committee member for more than 30 years.

Lee earned a law degree from Howard University and has represented the 34th District in the state House since 2019. She has been vocal in her support for reparations and economic justice.


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“While we have folks’ attention, here are 10 things more powerful than powerful ppl saying Black lives matter: 1. Reparations 2. Dismantling oppressive sys & institutions 3. Acknowledging harm of racial- capitalism & abandoning 4. Wealth & pwr distribution 5. Medicare4all,” Lee tweeted on July 14, 2020.

On June 2, 2021, Lee tweeted, “Corporate pride. Corporate Juneteenth. Corporate BLM. There’s no place for performative corporate sponsorship in our movements and remembrances. Keep your flags, your hashtags, your diversity &inclusion statements… Give us reparations. Taxes. Dismantle.”

Lee continued to speak out for reparations despite being trolled on Twitter. On June 19, 2021, she tweeted, “A Troll was taking the time to explain to me how systemic racism doesn’t impact EVERYTHING and that we can’t change the past. I asked: if one creates a harm or dangerous condition, do they have a duty to repair or mitigate? He said ‘I never accused you harming anyone.'”

Lee added, “And this my friends is why we need both critical thinking skills and reparations!”

Lee picked up powerful endorsements, including the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Justice Democrats and SEIU HealthCare Workers PA. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders joined her at one campaign stop, the Post-Gazette reported.

It was a tough campaign for Lee. In the last days of the race, she faced an onslaught of ad spending in support of her competition,Irwin, by AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC is a highly influential lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to Congress and executive branch.

In less than a month, the United Democracy Project — the political action committee for AIPAC — spent more than $1 million on ads in Pennsylvania’s 12th District., most of them attacking Lee, The Intercept reported.

But it is possible that Lee will be in the final election for Pennsylvania’s redrawn 12th Congressional District.

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“They hit us with everything they had, and we clawed, and we ran, and we got the power of the people. We’re out here in Western Pennsylvania fighting for the future of the whole country,” Lee said to supporters from her campaign headquarters. “They say a Black woman can’t win. Well, we came together. We can’t be stopped. We have a lot of work ahead of us. When we set out to do this, we believed a better world was possible; now we have to go do it.”

Photos: State Rep. Summer Lee, seeking the Democratic Party nomination for Pennsylvania’s 12th District U.S. Congressional district, is endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at a campaign stop in Pittsburgh, May 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke) / Steve Irwin, Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Steve_Irwin