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Update: Rep. Summer Lee announces campaign

Less than 24 hours after Doyle announced his retirement, state Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, formally announced a campaign to succeed him with a video and a press conference in Braddock. Lee, 33, is the second candidate to announce a run to represent Pittsburgh and some of it suburbs in Congress, along with Pitt Law professor Jerry Dickinson.

Lee is backed by national progressive group Justice Democrats, according to a campaign statement; the group has had high-profile successes electing progressives since its 2017 founding, including New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, St. Louis’ Cori Bush and Boston’s Ayanna Pressley.

Lee’s campaign announcement said she will run as someone who has “lived through the struggles of environmental racism, unaffordable healthcare, crushing student debt and job insecurity,” and signaled her support for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Ed Gainey spoke at her campaign announcement in Braddock, providing a high-profile endorsement in the first hours of her candidacy. Other local officials, including Democratic state Reps. Sara Innamorato, Jessica Benham and Jake Wheatley and County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam backed Lee at the Braddock event.

Mike Doyle will retire, opening Pittsburgh’s seat in Congress for the first time in decades

Congressman Mike Doyle announces that he will not seek reelection at an Oct. 18, 2021 press conference. (Photo by Charlie Wolfson/PublicSource)

Mike Doyle, the Democrat who has represented Pittsburgh in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1995, announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2022. Hours earlier, a state lawmaker filed to run for the seat, setting up a matchup between progressives to replace Doyle. 

Doyle, of Forest Hills, is opting to retire rather than seek a 15th term in office as House Democrats are preparing for a grueling campaign to defend their narrow majority. Doyle’s district, Pennsylvania’s 18th, is likely to remain deeply Democratic after congressional districts are redrawn this year. 

The retirement adds a new layer of uncertainty to the 2022 primary ballot; area voters are already set to choose nominees for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat and governorship. Now, there will be an open primary in Pittsburgh’s congressional district for the first time in almost 30 years. Doyle declined to endorse a candidate and said he hoped the district would “hear from a robust field of candidates.”

Though the district hasn’t had a wide open contest since Bill Clinton was president, the race to replace Doyle is already partially developed. Jerry Dickinson, a Pitt Law professor who ran against Doyle in the Democratic primary in 2020, announced another run earlier this year. And state Rep. Summer Lee, a progressive from Swissvale who unseated a longtime incumbent in 2018, filed paperwork to run just hours before Doyle’s announcement Monday.

Pitt Law professor Jerry Dickinson in 2019. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Dickinson, running on a progressive platform, collected a notable 34% of the vote in the 2020 race. He reported eye-catching fundraising numbers in the second quarter of 2021, bringing in $210,000, all from individual donors. Last week, he reported raising more than $121,000 in the third quarter.

Dickinson has also collected a slew of endorsements: County Councilor Liv Bennett; Michelle Kenney, the mother of Antwon Rose II; Braddock Mayor Chardae Jones; plus a handful of activists and even a couple former Doyle staffers.

Lee may be starting with less cash than Dickinson but enjoys name recognition and an electoral track record after she pulled off an upset win in 2018 and defended her seat in 2020. She is a leader in local progressive politics and was backed by the Democratic Socialists of America in her 2018 run.

“I want to thank Congressman Doyle for his service to our country and our region in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Dickinson said in a statement. “For 26 years, he has represented Western Pennsylvania with dignity and advocated passionately for our communities in Washington.

“From the start of this campaign one thing has been clear: Pittsburgh is ready for a new direction. I’m not a career politician, and I’m not running for Congress just to rise the political ranks or to advance my career.”

Lee’s campaign has not yet made a formal announcement.

Doyle sits on the Energy and Commerce committee and made renewable energy a priority during his time in office; most recently, he introduced a bill to invest in the country’s solar power manufacturing capability. He took leadership on Congressional working groups on robotics, autism research and hydrogen fuel cells, among others.

Charlie Wolfson is PublicSource’s local government reporter and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at charlie@publicsource.org and on Twitter @chwolfson.

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Charlie Wolfson is an enterprise reporter for PublicSource, focusing on local government accountability in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. He is also a Report for America corps member. Charlie aims to...