Lee, a progressive attorney from Braddock, is the first Black woman to represent southwest Pennsylvania in the state Legislature.
PITTSBURGH — Democratic US Rep. Mike Doyle, the dean of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, said Monday he will not seek reelection next year, bringing his career in Washington to an end after 28 years.
With the area’s other Democrat in Congress, Conor Lamb, running for US Senate, Doyle’s retirement was expected to set off a scramble among Pittsburgh Democrats to replace him. On Tuesday, state Rep. Summer Lee (D-Allegheny County), announced her campaign for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District seat.
Lee, 33, is a progressive attorney and the first Black woman to represent southwest Pennsylvania in the state Legislature. She supports Medicare for All, tuition-free public college, student debt cancellation, and far-reaching criminal justice reform.
Lee is in favor of the $15 minimum wage and has supported coronavirus vaccinations and Pennsylvania’s school mask mandate. She is pro-choice and a proponent of LGBTQ+ rights.
A native of Braddock, Lee has positioned herself as a champion of communities disproportionately impacted by environmental racism. As such, she backs the Green New Deal and is anti-fracking.
Doyle said at a news conference at his Pittsburgh office that it is time to pass the torch to a new generation, as the pandemic accelerated his thoughts about retirement plans with his wife. He also cited how redistricting will likely bring substantial change to the district’s boundaries, most likely pushing it outside Allegheny County in the southwestern part of the state.
“You know, this is going to be a brand-new district, new people, new counties maybe, and a good starting point for a new member of Congress to get acclimated in that district and go from there,” he said.
Doyle, 68, was first elected in 1994, in a district that currently includes all of Pittsburgh and some of its increasingly liberal-leaning suburbs. He served in office as Pittsburgh transformed its economy from steel to high-tech. He voted in line with the area’s influential labor unions, racking up an almost perfect lifetime score — 98% — from the AFL-CIO. Doyle has easily fended off primary challenges from the left while handily winning re-election against token Republican opposition, and he wasn’t seen as vulnerable.
“I just think he felt it was time,” Doyle’s former campaign strategist, Mike Mikus, said of the decision.
Western Pennsylvania is already in line to lose a House seat because of lackluster population growth. Democrats in Pittsburgh hope to keep two Democratic-leaning congressional districts, and Doyle’s departure opens the possibility of splitting Pittsburgh to help make that happen.
“You don’t have somebody fiercely fighting to defend their territory,” said Marty Marks, a Pittsburgh-based Democratic campaign consultant.
The news of Doyle’s retirement comes as two other longtime Democratic congressmen have announced their own retirement plans.
Rep. David Price, 81, the longest-serving member of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, will not seek re-election next year. Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the influential chair of the House Budget Committee, announced his own decision to retire, bringing to a dozen the total number of House Democrats who have revealed plans to retire or seek other office.
So far, 10 House Republicans have either stepped down this year or have said they aren’t seeking reelection in 2022.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.