Saturday, June 10

Summer Lee Shows Progressive Ideals Can Overcome Corporate Smears

As a progressive Democrat running for an open congressional seat, Summer Lee faced down a brutal smear campaign that claimed she was not enough of a party loyalist to merit a place on its ballot line. And early Wednesday morning, as she pulled ahead of her opponent in the primary for Pennsylvania’s 12th district, Lee declared, “The people took on the corporations and the people won. We built a movement in Western Pennsylvania that took on corporate power, stood up for working families, and beat back a multimillion-dollar smear campaign.”

Lee acknowledged that “we’ve still got some precincts left” when she appeared before cheering supporters after a long night. But Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, a Lee supporter, explained to the victory party crowd that “we know that the votes [that are left to be counted] are ours.” As cheers went up from the room, Gainey declared, “We know we have won. Tonight is her victory for her, but tonight is our celebration.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, Lee had a 446-vote lead over lawyer and veteran Democratic insider Steve Irwin on Wednesday morning. Irwin, who hasn’t conceded, was the beneficiary of more than $3 million in spending by super PACs that flooded the Pittsburgh-area district with ads portraying Lee as an unsatisfactory Democrat because of the state representative’s efforts to move the party toward more progressive positions on economic, social, and racial justice issues, the climate crisis, and foreign policy.

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Lee was not alone in declaring a victory for ideas and candidates that have rattled the party establishment. In the Democratic primary race for Pennsylvania’s open US Senate seat, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, a high-profile backer of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential bid, beat centrist US Representative Conor Lamb by a two-to-one margin, carrying all 67 of the state’s counties. A Harvard-educated, 6-foot-8, gym-shorts wearing rabble-rouser who talks about using art “to combat the dark side of capitalism,” Fetterman ran as an advocate for living wages, criminal justice reform, legalized marijuana, and Medicare for All. His primary day was spent in the hospital, where the candidate had what was described as a “successful procedure” to get a pacemaker and defibrillator after he suffered a stroke. Fetterman, who is expected to make a full recovery, announced Tuesday, “The fate of our Democratic majority all comes down to Pennsylvania—ranked by CNN as the #1 Most Likely to Flip US Senate seat.”

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