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Bhavini Patel launches campaign to challenge U.S. Rep. Summer Lee


Bhavini Patel launches campaign to challenge U.S. Rep. Summer Lee

Oct 02, 2023 | 6:13 pm ET
By Kim Lyons
Bhavini Patel launches campaign to challenge U.S. Rep. Summer Lee
Bhavini Patel is challenging U.S. Rep. Summer Lee for the Democrats' nomination in District 12 (Photo via Patel campaign)

Bhavini Patel, a member of Edgewood Borough Council in Allegheny County, announced Monday she will challenge U.S. Rep. Summer Lee for the Democratic nomination for the 12th District. 

Patel has been widely expected to take another run at the seat she briefly campaigned for in 2022 when it was newly drawn. This time around, she told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, she thinks she’s better positioned, after “hundreds of conversations” with people around the district ahead of Monday’s campaign launch. 

“I think that people are looking for change, they want somebody who is focused on delivering on the issues that we need here – and they want somebody who’s going to take this region’s message to DC and not focus on a national agenda,” Patel said. “I think they want somebody who’s going to be dedicated to getting things done right here at home.” 

Patel is the daughter of an immigrant single mother from India, grew up in Monroeville near Pittsburgh, and worked in the family’s food truck business. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and later a master’s degree from Oxford University. She worked in the Allegheny County Executive’s office as a community outreach manager, and currently serves as a borough council member in Edgewood. 

She said her upbringing taught her to “fight a lot of fights and advocate,” adding that she didn’t think her family would have been able to accomplish the things they did in any other part of the country. “I also think it’s absolutely imperative that we elect somebody who’s willing to be a strong ally to the president,” Patel added. 

The issues she views as most important to the district include reproductive justice, addressing gun violence, and workforce development, Patel said.

Summer Lee launches re-election bid: ‘I’m battle-tested’

As a first-year member of Congress, Lee has been successful at rallying the party’s progressive base by questioning policy decisions by the Republican majority in the House. That in turn has raised questions about her ability to get things accomplished in Congress;  Lee acknowledged that criticism at her campaign launch last month.

“They said that progressives like me wouldn’t bring money to the district,” Lee said at the launch event, then ticked off a list of projects for which she had helped secure funding, including transportation, infrastructure, bridges and housing.  “We brought home money for people and communities that have not seen any investments in decades and decades.”

The list of funding Lee has helped secure for the district in the short time she has represented it in Congress includes a $50 million HUD grant for revitalization of Bedford Dwellings in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood, a $150 million grant for Pittsburgh Regional Transit, the city’s transit authority, and $11.29 million in infrastructure funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for Allegheny County’s airports.

Patel called herself a lifelong Democrat, and said the work she has done in her professional career has been rooted in uniting people and getting things done.

However, Lee may prove a difficult opponent to beat. According to polling by Washington, D.C.-based polling firm GQR obtained by the Capital-Star, Lee currently enjoys a favorability rating of 70-13 among Democratic primary voters in District 12 in Allegheny County, which comprises 90% of the district.