Home » Rep. Summer Lee’s primary could test Democrats critical of Israel

Rep. Summer Lee’s primary could test Democrats critical of Israel

by The Grio

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — An election this month in Pittsburgh and some of its suburbs is emerging as an early test of whether Israel’s war with Hamas poses political threats to progressive Democrats in Congress who have criticized how the conflict has been handled.

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, a first-term lawmaker who has aligned herself with the “squad,” is facing a primary challenge from Bhavini Patel and the war has become a flashpoint in the race.

Patel frames Lee’s criticism of Israel as part of a broader pattern of left-wing politics that are extreme for the district and potentially damaging to Democratic President Joe Biden in a state is crucial to his reelection bid against Republican Donald Trump. Lee counters that she has helped move calls for a cease-fire in Gaza more into the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

The war has scrambled Democratic politics across the United States. It’s dividing traditionally progressive groups, including Pittsburgh’s sizable Jewish community, in ways that don’t always fall neatly along ethnic or cultural lines. But it’s an especially potent issue in Lee’s district, which is home to the synagogue where a gunman in 2018 killed 11 congregants in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

The April 23 primary could shed light on whether the war alone is enough to turn a critical mass of Democrats against Lee.

“It clearly is big enough with a certain group in this district,” said Sam Hens-Greco, the party chair in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. “Whether it is big enough for the entire populace, we’re going to find out.”

If Lee is defeated, she would be the first Democratic incumbent in Congress to lose a primary this year. Other progressive Democrats, including Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri, Jamaal Bowman of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, face primary challengers this summer.

Lee has raised far more money than Patel and has…

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