Summer Lee (1987- )

Pennsylvania State Representative Summer Lee posing in front of American flag
Pennsylvania State Representative Summer Lee, January 3, 2023
Courtesy U.S. House of Representatives under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

Summer Lynn Lee is a lawyer, and politician, who has served as the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district since January 2023. Lee was born on November 26, 1987 in the North Braddock area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended Woodland Hills High School, located in Churchill, and was a member of the track team and a drum major. She graduated Woodland Hills in 2005, and attend Pennsylvania State University. From May through August 2007, Lee was a news intern at KDKA, a CBS news affiliate in Pittsburgh. She got involved in politics as a Field Manager for a local grassroots campaign in 2008, leading the state college office in the number of new registrants.

Lee graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2009 with a BA in journalism, and a minor in French, and then enrolled into Howard University School of Law. While at Howard, Lee interned with the Office of Cross Cultural and Leadership Development (August-December 2009), the Children’s Defense Fund for Freedom Schools (June-August 2012) and the Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, DCPS General Counsel Office (June-August 2013). Lee was the Oliver White Hill Fellow, while working for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (June-August 2014), and she also served as a student attorney in the Civil Right Clinic. She graduated with her Juris Doctorate in 2015.

The following year, Lee worked as a field organizer for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party campaigning with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. After writing a successful write-in campaign for a local school board candidate, Lee was approached by an organizer to become a candidate for the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives. Lee challenged 20 year incumbent Paul Costa in the Democratic Party for the 34th District, and defeated him with 67.8% of the vote, becoming the first African American woman from Western Pennsylvania elected to the state House of Representatives. During her first term, she was assigned to the Health, Education and Judiciary committees.

In 2019, Lee co-founded UNITE, a grassroots organization dedicated to building progressive electoral power up and down the ballot. She won her re-election campaign against Christopher Roland and won with 76.3% of the vote.

>Pennsylvania State Representative Summer Lee speaking behind a podium and holding a microphone
Summer Lee campaigning for the Democratic Party nomination to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, October 19, 2021 Photograph by Mark Dixon, courtesy Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Lee initially announced her candidacy for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district in October 2021. When new congressional districts were drawn up in February 2022, Lee announced she would run for the 12th district, an area covering most of the old 18th district, that now included parts of the Mon Valley and Westmoreland County.

During the campaign, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) poured nearly two million dollars in advertising and mailings against Lee, a move considered shameful by many Republican and Democratic observers. Despite their efforts, Lee won the primary election against Steve Irwin by a margin of just .08%, and won the general election against Mike Doyle with 56.2% of the votes, making her the first African American woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania. Lee simultaneously ran for re-election to the PA House of Representatives, and was re-elected to a third term, but was required to resign the seat to assume her new role in the U.S. House. A special election will be held to fill her position. She currently lives in Swissvale, Pennsylvania.