HomePoliticsA race for Congress in Pittsburgh could test Democrats who have criticized...

A race for Congress in Pittsburgh could test Democrats who have criticized Israel’s handling of the war

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 the way it conflict has been resolved.

US representative Summer Leea first-term lawmaker who has joined 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 is extreme for the district and potentially damaging to Democratic President Joe Biden, in a state crucial to his reelection bid against Republican Donald Trump. Lee responds that she helped bring the call for a ceasefire in Gaza more into the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

The war has thrown democratic politics in the United States into turmoil. It divides 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 serious issue in Lee’s district, home to the synagogue where a gunman killed 11 congregants in 2018 in the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

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

“It’s clearly big enough with a certain group in this district,” said Sam Hens-Greco, party chairman in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. “We will find out whether it is big enough for the entire population.”

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.

See also  Trump's lawyers are citing Michael Cohen's insults to undermine his credibility

Lee has raised far more money than Patel and has the support of Pennsylvania’s Democratic establishment, including Sen. Bob Casey, and a constellation of progressive groups that include both Jewish and Muslim organizations.

Lee, 36, the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania, is a Howard University law school graduate and community activist. She began her political career in 2018 with a successful challenge from the left to become an entrenched state lawmaker in the Pittsburgh region.

In this year’s campaign, Lee has promoted herself as a hard-working representative who is committed to her constituents and speaking in Congress on behalf of marginalized communities on issues ranging from combating inequality to climate change and bigotry, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Regarding the war between Israel and Hamas, Lee has condemned Hamas’s attack, but he has also accused Israel of committing “war crimes” in Gaza, demanded an end to US military aid to Israel and called for a ceasefire firing within days of the outbreak of war. as the best way to break the cycle of violence and build peace.

That set her apart from Biden’s position and that of most Democrats in the House of Representatives, although dozens of others have now joined her in calling for a ceasefire. During Biden’s State of the Union address, Lee wore a kaffiyeh, a checked scarf that has come to symbolize solidarity with the Palestinians.

Patel, 30, a small-town councilman who worked in the former administration of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, declared his candidacy a few days before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Patel, who is Hindu and of Indian descent, has cultivated the Jewish community by opening a campaign office in the Jewish enclave in Squirrel Hill, where he was present after October 2012. Seven vigils and buses with community members to a pro-Israel rally in Washington in November.

See also  Moderate Republicans are preparing to fend off challenges from the right: from the politics desk

Most recently, Patel hammered Lee for joining supporters of the “uncommitted” campaign that is encouraging Democrats to protest Biden’s handling of war voting as “uncommitted” in the primaries.

That, Patel suggested, is dangerous.

“I would say that every Democrat in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District should be aware that my opponent has been ambiguous about her support for President Biden and has failed to denounce the ‘uncommitted’ movement,” she said Patel in an interview. “I think this is the issue that is of great concern to Democrats in this district.”

Lee defended the “unaligned” move, saying it is wrong to discourage people from voting and potentially losing a crucial portion of the electorate that Democrats want to convince to support Biden in November’s presidential election. Biden recognizes that too, Lee said.

Lee said she has met people from all sides of the war, including families of hostages and families of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza, and that her calls for a ceasefire reflect the district’s majority.

Lee also accused Patel of aligning himself more with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than with Biden.

“Joe Biden is now becoming more aligned with us, which means that, no, it wasn’t wrong to come out early and come out strong, because as we see now, this was always where we needed to come,” said Lee. said in an interview. “This was always the only way to peace.”

See also  Biden rejects further debates against Trump

For now, the sharpest questions about the war have been largely confined to the debates between Lee and Patel.

The issue has barely appeared on the airwaves, and pro-Israel groups that spent big to defeat Lee in the 2022 primaries — Democratic Majority for Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC — have not yet reached the media. race.

In Pennsylvania, a potential boost for Lee could come from students who, unlike the 2022 primaries, will be on campus this time. At the University of Pittsburgh, the war has had a “commanding presence” on campus, with most students in favor of a ceasefire, said Will Allison, president of Pitt’s College Democrats.

The group unanimously supported Lee, despite the war causing some division among members, and the College Democrats campaigned for Lee.

In a possible sign of changing politics surrounding the war, the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, a non-party organization based around Squirrel Hill, voted for Patel after he endorsed Lee in 2022.

Sue Berman Kress, a Jewish supporter of Patel, said she knows a number of Jewish Democrats who will not vote for Lee again. They feel she has failed the Jewish community and that her policies could open the door to a Trump victory and a wave of anti-Semitism.

“These things are divisive in a way that is very scary,” Kress said.


Follow Marc Levy twitter.com/timelywriter.

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments