UE-Endorsed State Rep. Summer Lee Fends Off Establishment Challenge

June 4, 2020

Pennsylvania State Representative Summer Lee, who addressed UE’s 2019 convention, easily defeated a primary challenger supported by the Democratic Party establishment on Tuesday.

“This is a win for all working people and all who live and are from the 34th District,” said Local 610 President Antwon "Swanny" Gibson. “Summer is the leader we need to stand up for racial justice and racial equality for an economy that functions not only for African-Americans but also for workers, the sick, and the elderly. Summer is also the leader we need to stand up for an environment that will allow our children to survive and prosper.”

Lee, the first Black woman to be elected to the state legislature in Western Pennsylvania, defeated an establishment incumbent in 2018. In her two years in office she has established a track record of fighting for working people and standing up against corporate power and the political establishment in both parties. She has attended and spoken at rallies and picket lines supporting many UE locals and other unions.

Despite this, the local AFL-CIO joined Democratic Party officialdom in supporting her challenger, who spent over $150,000 — much of it raised from unions — in his bid to unseat her.

“As a union, this is exactly why we are a politically independent organization — we support candidates that fight with us and for us, not establishment candidates funded by wealthy people and large corporations that do not care whether we live or die, or succeed or fail,” said Gibson, whose local endorsed Lee for re-election in January.

Two other Pittsburgh-area candidates endorsed by Local 610 also won primaries on Tuesday. Rep. Sara Innamorato, who like Lee defeated an establishment incumbent in 2018, did not face a primary challenge this year. Jessica Benham, a disability rights advocate and leader of the Steelworkers’ organizing campaign at the University of Pittsburgh, won a four-way primary for an open state representative seat on Pittsburgh’s south side.