Leftist surge in Democratic Party will benefit Rep. Summer Lee

PITTSBURGH — If you drive throughout the city neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, the signs for Bahvini Patel far outpace those for incumbent Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA), whom Patel is challenging in the Democratic Party for Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.

The same goes for other city neighborhoods and the suburban enclaves that encompass the city-centric district.

You’d think that would mean Patel, an eastern suburban Pittsburgh councilwoman, at least stood a chance against the far-left congresswoman in the Democratic Party.

Except signs don’t vote.

So despite Lee losing the support of the vaunted progressive 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club’s endorsement, an endorsement that catapulted her into stardom just six years ago in a primary race over then incumbent Democrat state Rep. Paul Costa and repeated again in her reelection and yet again in her bid to run for congress in 2022, Lee appears poised to win the seat she has held since January of 2023.

Private polling shared with me showed it would take a herculean event to upset Lee at this point, in part because it will be a low turnout primary, but also in part because Lee has consolidated power in the progressive ranks.

And the hard truth for a lot of liberal Democrats in this region is that their party isn’t their party anymore; it is now solidly far Left.

Hard leftists have also taken over the ranks of Allegheny County Democratic Committee, and their candidates have also taken over the city council, the mayor’s office, and the county executive office in successive wins that with very few exceptions almost always end with them defeating an old-fashioned liberal Democrat in a primary.

Lee, like Councilwoman Bethany Hallam and county executive Sara Innamorato, got her start in the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and impressively never lost a race along the way.

Lee has faced backlash over two things she did after the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. On Oct. 25, she cast one of just 10 votes against a bill that asserted the House stood with Israel as it defended itself against Hamas. She also faced backlash here for joining in with several left-wing House Democrats supporting a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza that never once mentioned Hamas terrorism.

Yet none of that has really stuck, especially among upper-middle-class white city voters who have moved far left since 2018 and have stuck with Lee.

Patel is far from moderate on any one issue, but she received some monetary support from the Moderate PAC, which is funded by Republican Jeffery Yass. Lee used that as an opportunity to pounce on her as being affiliated with Republicans and supposedly a racist.

“Her entire campaign is backed by Republicans,” Lee said during the debate between the two women last week. “Yet she says that I’m not a good enough Democrat. It feels like she’s implying that there’s enough room for Joe Manchin, but not a Black woman fighting for her own party.”

Lee’s argument is a false narrative since Patel by law has no coordination with that PAC or any PAC. She is also of Indian descent.

Even without the polling numbers, a sure sign a candidate knows she is ahead in the polls is when they launch an ad, which Lee did today, never once mentioning the opponent’s name.

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The far-Left movement saw a pause last fall when the DSA lost two council seats, Innamorato barely won her race against Republican Joe Rockey in the county with a heavily Democratic registration, and when a measure to demand a ceasefire by the Allegheny County Council failed last month.

If Lee wins — and it appears to be a miracle that Patel will prevail — it will reinvigorate the far-left movement that has now taken over Allegheny County Democrats and that exerts leftist pressure on the congressional Democratic caucus.

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