Summer Lee Has Been a Vocal Israel Critic. Will It Matter in Her Primary?

As a progressive insurgent in her last primary campaign, Summer Lee barely eked out a victory in a Pittsburgh-area congressional race, facing fierce opposition from local Democratic leadership and an onslaught of spending from outside groups.

Two years later, Ms. Lee — now a congresswoman aligned with the left-wing “Squad” in Washington — heads into Tuesday’s primary contest as the dominant front-runner, backed by much of the party establishment even as her criticism of Israel has deeply angered some Jewish constituents.

“It was just the development of Congresswoman Summer Lee,” said Mayor Ed Gainey of Pittsburgh, asked about the biggest difference between the 2022 primary contest and this one. “No one can doubt her influence.”

The Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th District seemed primed to become a major test of party attitudes about the Middle East, following the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack that Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people in Israel, and the Israeli military response that has devastated Gaza.

Ms. Lee has condemned the Oct. 7 attack. But she is also one of the most vocal critics of Israel in Congress, breaking with much of her party on an array of Israel-related legislation and calling for a cease-fire nine days after the Hamas attack, a position at odds with many Democratic officials at the time.

Yet interviews with more than a dozen voters, party leaders and activists in the Pittsburgh area suggest that the once-expected ideological battle has been significantly limited.

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