Shortly after 9:30 Tuesday night, Wasi Mohamed stepped onto a small stage in a crowded second-floor ballroom at Downtown’s Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, grabbed a microphone from a podium and announced he was going to find his boss and bring her into the room.

The crowd then broke into a spontaneous chant, “Wasi! Wasi! Wasi!” Mohamed could hear the echo of his name as he hustled out of the room and down a hallway. It was an honor rarely bestowed upon a first-term congresswoman’s chief of staff and an indication that this was clearly a special evening for Pittsburgh’s progressive political movement.

Mohamed’s boss, U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, who represents the state’s 12th Congressional District, had just defeated her Democratic primary challenger, Bhavini Patel. It wasn’t much of a contest. Lee pounded Patel, winning more than 60% of the vote. (In fact, Lee’s people voiced confidence shortly after polls closed. Early returns showed the congresswoman with commanding leads.)

A few minutes after Mohamed’s exit, Lee emerged to cheers. Making her way to the front of the room, she high-fived those in the crowd, who now chanted “Summer, Summer, Summer.”

“This is my mother, y’all,” Summer Lee said when introducing her mom, Shelda Lee. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

After introductions by two of her progressive colleagues — Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey — Lee took the stage and soon launched into a speech that described an ascendant movement that had, on this day, proved itself capable of fending off big-money challengers and the politics of division.

Western Pennsylvania, she said, was the “blueprint for the rest of the nation.”

“We’re going forward,” she said. “That is the only direction we going for. So to everybody who want us to continue on the politics of the past, a nostalgic politics that has for so long left behind communities like mine, like so many communities in this region, we’re saying, ‘Come and join us, come and join us.’ Our movement is expansive enough and big enough for each and every one of us. … Each and every one of us can lay down our arms and cease fire, so that we can build peace from Pittsburgh to Palestine.”

Summer Lee supporters cheer her speech after the representative defeated her challenger in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

That last comment was a response to Patel’s attacks throughout the campaign, in which Patel had hammered Lee’s response to Israel’s war in Gaza. After condemning the Hamas attacks that precipitated the war, Lee called for a ceasefire — a move that sparked the ire of pro-Israel groups. Patel claimed such calls ignored the concerns of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and undercut President Joe Biden.

Voters thought otherwise, Lee said. Her win, she added, is a victory for a movement seeking an end to wars. “People deserve dignity and human rights, and self-determination, whether they are Jewish or Muslim or Black or white or they’re in Gaza or they’re in Pakistan or they’re in Haiti or Sudan or St. Louis or New York,” Lee said. “Our movement is connecting the dots all over this world, and we are calling for a just and lasting peace here and everywhere, and we are not ashamed of that.”

The evening’s results showed that people can prevail, Lee said, even when wealthy Republicans try to use their cash to influence races — a reference to billionaire GOP donor Jeffrey Yaas, who spent heavily on a super PAC supporting Patel.

“Our movement is stronger than any wedge issue, stronger that any opportunist, and stronger than everybody that wants to say the power of the people is not stronger than the people in power.”

The 12th District is a reliably blue, and Lee will be a heavy favorite in November when she faces off against James Hayes, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt reported Tuesday night that the Pennsylvania primary election ran efficiently and successfully, noting minimal reports of routine issues from voters across the state.

“Dedicated and hard-working county election staff and poll workers across the commonwealth have again conducted a free, fair, safe and secure election,” he said.

For other Pennsylvania primary election results, searchable by county, visit

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee poses for a picture with her staff and campaign workers. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at

Steve Mellon

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at