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WESA Candidate Survey: Summer Lee and Mike Doyle on the issues

We surveyed Republican Mike Doyle and Democrat Summer Lee, the candidates for Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, on top issues for the 2022 election.

About the WESA Candidate Survey: WESA sent surveys to all candidates running in competitive races for federal and state offices in our listening area, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Cambria, Beaver, Butler, Fayettte, Greene, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. Our candidate survey was based upon input we solicited from voters.

We have fixed basic capitalization and punctuation issues, but have not otherwise edited candidates' answers.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly has proposed a federal ban on abortion after 6 weeks, with exceptions for life or health of the mother, but not for rape or incest. Would you support such a proposal — yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance and identify other changes, if any, you would support at the federal level.

Doyle: No. I only support legislation that includes exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Lee: Absolutely not, I oppose all bans on abortion and believe we should be codifying abortion rights at the federal level, expanding access to reproductive health care, and repeal the Hyde Amendment through legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act and the EACH Act as well as ending the filibuster to ensure an outdated Senate rule doesn’t stand in the way of protecting our fundamental rights.

The federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Do you favor federal action to change the minimum wage?

  • Please explain your stance and, if you support a change, identify the minimum wage rate you believe is appropriate.

Doyle: Yes. I’m not sure what the rate should be. But I believe that we need to be addressing the wage rate on a periodic basis. I also think we should establish a training wage for young and new workers to enter the workforce.

Lee: Yes, at a minimum, the federal minimum wage should be raised to $15/hr. The federal minimum wage has not increased in 13 years — not at the federal level and not at the state level in Pennsylvania. Workers cannot survive on poverty wages, if prices have gone up in 13 years, if corporate profits have gone up in 13 years, then the minimum wage should be increased to outpace that.

Earlier this term, the U.S. House passed the "For the People Act" (H.R. 1), with provisions requiring states to offer options like early voting and automatic voter registration, and to create independent commissions to draw Congressional boundaries, rather than have the legislature and governor do so. The measure died in the Senate. Would you vote for H.R. 1 in office? Yes/no?

  • Please explain your answer, and suggest any federal action — either in H.R. 1 or outside it — that you think would be appropriate for Congress to take on the conduct of elections.

Doyle: No. Election laws are designated to the states by our constitution. I do not believe in the nationalizing of election laws. I think our system and integrity of elections are strengthened by local control of elections.

Lee: Yes, HR 1 is the bare minimum to invest in the future of our democracy. As the GOP wages an open war on our democracy, we should be the party defending it by not only passing HR 1 but ending racist voter ID and suppression laws, ending gerrymandering and providing every person in our country with the right to vote — from previously incarcerated people to immigrants, everyone deserves a voice in our democracy. Additionally, comprehensive campaign finance reform that ends Citizens United and puts campaigns back into the hands of the people is a necessary step to rebuilding our democracy.

President Biden recently signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will move the United States toward reducing carbon emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. That’s short of a 50 percent reduction by 2030, which scientists say is necessary to limit the worst impacts of climate change on the globe. Would you support further legislation aimed at that target — yes or no?

  • Please explain your stance, and describe any changes you wish to see to federal energy or climate policy.

Doyle: No. I think we need to allow for innovation to improve our carbon emissions. Innovations like carbon capture and natural gas power have gone a long way in reducing our carbon footprint. This policy gives China more power over our energy by making us more reliant on technology and resources they produce.

Lee: Absolutely, the climate crisis isn’t a future problem. It’s a current crisis, and we need to act boldly if we’re going to stop the destruction of our planet. For too long, we’ve let corporations put their profits over our health. In Congress, I will fight for a Green New Deal to transition to a 100% clean and renewable energy economy and bring green union jobs back to PA-12. The Green New Deal centers frontline and marginalized communities facing the brunt of environmental racism — communities with poisoned water, high rates of asthma, etc — communities like ours while creating a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy with union job creation.

Inflation is a concern for Pennsylvanians, and some legislators have called for either reducing or suspending the federal gas tax. Would you support such a measure? Yes/no?

  • If yes, how would you replace the revenue — and are there other inflation-fighting policies you would pursue? (Please limit your answer to 100 words)

Doyle: I don’t support short-term gimmicks to overcome what is the main cause of inflation, which is overspending by our government. We can produce our own energy and in doing so reduce the cost of gas and consumer goods

Lee: A suspension of the federal gas tax will not target the root causes of these price increases and will have a marginal effect on consumers. What we need is to end corporate price-gouging that lets corporations rake in record profits while raising prices at the pump for everyday Americans. We need a windfall-profit tax on Big Oil companies who are exploiting a crisis to make billions in profits to make them pay their fair share and invest that money in the American people’s needs.

In the face of rising homicide and other crime rates, would you support requiring universal background checks for gun purchases? Yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance, and describe other approaches to fighting crime that you would support.

Doyle: No. Law-abiding citizens do not need more laws to combat crime. What we need is for prosecutors to do their jobs to prosecute the laws on the books. We need to ensure our law enforcement has the resources they need to fight crime and that criminals know there are consequences to their actions.

Lee: Absolutely, universal background checks is common-sense gun safety legislation that will save lives. We also need to ban assault weapons and end protections for corporate gun manufacturers. But in communities like ours, gun violence often means handgun violence — rooted in poverty and communities that have gone underfunded and ignored for decades. We need an investment in our schools, after-school programs and wrap-around services. We need more jobs and higher wages so people have a choice in their future. Gun violence cannot be addressed in isolation; it’s rooted in every social service we cut and must be combatted at that level, too.

Do you support proposals for the federal government to wipe out student debt?  Yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance and describe the changes you would support to change student loan programs.

Doyle: No. We have to address the cause of the high cost of higher education. Faculty and administrative bloat have ballooned costs. We also need to address the predatory rates that student loans are charged. Just forgiving the debt is going to lead to more inflation and is unfair to ask those who have paid their debts or didn’t take them out to pay for the debt of this generation.

Lee: Yes, I think the federal government should wipe out all student debt. I know from firsthand experience how crushing the weight of student debt is and how it affects every single decision I make in my life. Higher education should not be a privilege reserved for the rich. Public colleges and universities and vocational programs should be tuition-free.

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.