Summer Lee will be PA’s first Black female member of Congress

November 24, 2022

Democrat Summer Lee, a state representative from western Pennsylvania, has become the state’s first Black woman to be elected to Congress.

Lee, a lawyer and a former labor organizer, defeated Republican Mike Doyle — not to be confused with Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, whom Lee will be replacing. The Associated Press called the race Wednesday morning.

“It looks like we won an election,” Lee said during a press conference Tuesday night. “This was a movement about what it looks like when we prioritize the most marginalized. This is what a real working class movement looks like … It is a new day in Pittsburgh.”

Lee will be representing the heavily Democratic 12th District, which includes all of Pittsburgh and other areas of Allegheny County, along with a portion of Westmoreland County.

Pennsylvania’s 17-member delegation has just one other Black representative in Congress — Democrat Dwight Evans, who represents Philadelphia. The state has never had a female or Black senator or governor.

Throughout her campaign, Lee won endorsements from progressive members of Congress, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Her win represents a big victory for progressives and, according to The Hill, she could be the latest member of Capitol Hill’s progressive “Squad,” a group of women lawmakers that includes Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), and others.

Youth-oriented organizations like the Sunrise Movement — a climate change activist group — also backed Lee. In an interview with Teen Vogue, she discussed campaign strategies that centered around energizing young voters.

Lee grew up in North Braddock and Rankin, boroughs outside of Pittsburgh, and currently lives in Swissvale. The 34-year-old said she decided to run for office while living with her mom, jokingly noting that Sen.-elect John Fetterman was not the only politico who lived with their parents as an adult.

She graduated from Woodland Hills High School, Pennsylvania State University, and Howard University School of Law. During her time at Howard, Lee interned with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. After graduating law school, Lee described herself as “a dedicated organizer, activist and advocate for social justice in her local community.”

During her press conference Tuesday night declaring victory, Lee called her campaign a “multi-racial, multi-generational movement.” She mentioned her uphill battle against campaign ads and smear tactics she called “racist and fear-mongering” from GOP groups that supported her opponent.

“This is not over,” she said. “We’re going to take this energy. We have so much more work to do.”

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