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Bernie Sanders endorses Summer Lee in 12th Congressional District race

Summer Lee campaign

State Representative Summer Lee is rolling out the support of a national political powerhouse today: Vermont Senator and former Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is renewing his support for Lee in her bid to replace retiring Congressman Mike Doyle.

"As an experienced community organizer, Summer Lee understands that working people desperately need leaders in Congress who will stand up to big money interests and fight for an agenda that puts the working class first,” Sanders said in a statement being released Thursday. “Summer has been a champion for Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, expanding voting rights, and a Green New Deal, and I know she will continue to fight for those ideas when she is in the Congress."

The endorsement reaffirms Lee’s ties to the progressive vanguard in national politics. Sanders previously endorsed her state House bid, which has been a galvanizing cause for a progressive movement within local Democratic politics. And Lee’s Congressional run has already been backed by Justice Democrats, which was founded by alumni of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Lee is also supported by local progressives that include Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam.

“I was proud to have Senator Bernie Sanders support me in my State House race and I’m proud to have his support in my campaign for Congress,” Lee said in the campaign statement. “Together, I know we can deliver a future where Medicare for All, environmental justice, and a strong labor movement are not only possible, but inevitable.”

The Sanders endorsement underscores the Lee campaign’s theme of being a people-driven campaign: Earlier this week, Lee filed election petitions with over 7,300 signatures — several times as many as are required to garner a spot on the ballot and proof of a robust field effort.

And the latest announcement comes hours after a top Democratic rival, Steve Irwin, unveiled the endorsement of Doyle himself as well as County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Taken together, the endorsements present voters with a choice between two different visions for the office: either a movement-builder who stresses the importance of growing a more inclusive politics with a bold progressive agenda, or a more moderate consensus-builder who emphasizes using the office to help grow the region.

Other Democratic candidates in the race include University of Pittsburgh law professor Jerry Dickinson as well as newcomers Jeffrey Woodard and Will Parker. A Republican also named Mike Doyle is the lone GOP entrant in the heavily Democratic 12th District, which consists of the city of Pittsburgh and outlying communities to the south and east. The primary is May 17.

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.