Rep. Summer Lee’s decisive PA primary win signals momentum for pro-Palestine movement

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., told theGrio, “Organized people beat organized money every time.”

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee,
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 31: Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., participates in the House Oversight and Accountability Committee organizing meeting in the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday, January 31, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

After pulling out a decisive win against her primary opponent amid a super PAC’s attempt to unseat her over her stance on the Israel-Hamas war in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., is empowering the broader pro-Palestine movement to end the more than 200-day-old conflict.

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., told theGrio of Lee’s overwhelming victory: “Organized people beat organized money every time.”

The New York congressman, who is facing own primary challenge on June 25 for his stance on the war, said of Lee’s history: “When you govern from the perspective of human rights, people feel that.”

Bowman added that voters came “out to support” Lee because she “governs from the perspective of human rights, justice, freedom and equality.”

On Tuesday, Lee defeated Democratic challenger Edgewood Borough Councilmember Bhavini Patel. The councilmember was backed by The Moderate Democrats PAC, which aims to support centrist Democrats and is funded by Republican mega-donor Jeffrey Yass. The super PAC donated more than $600,000 to Patel’s campaign. However, that paled in comparison to the more than $2 million that Lee was able to raise.

Lee is now set to face off with Republican opponent, businessman James Hayes, in November.

In a statement obtained by theGrio, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said “far-right billionaires and AIPAC megadonors” saw Lee as a threat, however, her constituents “see effective leadership and a champion in the fight for justice for all.”

“The people of Pittsburgh showed our seats cannot and will not be bought,” declared Bush.

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush,
Rep. Cori Bush / Getty

Usamah Andrabi, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats, told theGrio that Lee had the support of her constituents because she had “one of the most productive years” as a freshman member of Congress.

“She delivered over $1.2 billion to her district on the exact priorities that she campaigned on, including green jobs, clean air and water, and affordable housing,” said Andrabi. 

This is the second time Lee was the target of a super PAC. In 2022, leading up to Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District Democratic primary election, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), backed Lee’s opponent, Pittsburgh attorney Steve Irwin. AIPAC invested more than $2.3 million in Irwin’s campaign. Despite the super PAC’s efforts, Lee won the primary race.

Last year, AIPAC announced it would invest $100 million to unseat Lee and other members of the so-called congressional “Squad” including Reps. Bowman, Bush, Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., due to their views on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Since the conflict began in October 2023, the “Squad” members have repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Gaza and have criticized the Biden-Harris administration for not reprimanding Israel for committing war crimes that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of women and children in Gaza. 

Although AIPAC fell short of its goal to unseat Lee, the super PAC has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to unseat Bowman in his Democratic primary race. 

The super PAC recruited Westchester County Executive George Latimer to challenge Bowman in New York’s 16th Congressional District Democratic primary election. Latimer received more than $600,000 in AIPAC donations. Latimer also gained the backing of the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a super PAC that aims to elect pro-Israel Democrats for Congress.

Bowman, who has held his congressional seat since 2021, believes AIPAC’s initiative to unseat him will fail.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman,
FILE – Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., listens to fellow speakers before President Joe Biden speaks on the debt limit during an event at SUNY Westchester Community College, May 10, 2023, in Valhalla, N.Y. Bowman was charged Wednesday with a misdemeanor for triggering a fire alarm as lawmakers scrambled to pass a funding bill before a government shutdown deadline in September. The alarm prompted an evacuation of a House office building and reopened an hour later after Capitol Police determined it was not a threat. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Bowman told theGrio that over the course of three years, he has done the will of his constituents.

“We’ve delivered over a billion dollars to the district and invested in areas that people care about like public safety, health care and mental health,” said Bowman. “We’ve shown our constituents time and time again that we govern with and for them.”

AIPAC and DMFI have also endorsed prosecutor Wesley Bell, who will go toe to toe with Bush on Aug, 6 in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District Democratic primary election.

Despite efforts by pro-Israel groups to unseat Bush, she too is confident that she will remain in office.

Bush told theGrio that she believes her constituents are going to show up and mirror what was seen in Lee’s Democratic primary race.  

Andrabi told theGrio that AIPAC and DMFI are using Latimer and Bell as “empty vessels” to push right-wing policies. 

He added that voters should ask themselves if they would like to see more “career politicians” in office or if they would prefer to elect those who “have been closer to the crises that everyday people in this country are facing,” like Bowman, who is a former principal and Bush who is a former nurse.

Andrabi told theGrio that despite continued threats from super PACs, he believes members of the Congressional “Squad,” will remain in Congress and continue to advocate on behalf of their constituents.

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