Wrong Mike Doyle: Pa. congressional race includes a familiar — and confusing — name

Joe Napsha And Ryan Deto
The Tribune-Review, Greensburg (TNS)

The race for the 12th Congressional District is seemingly lost in the barrage of ads for Pennsylvania's higher-profile Senate and gubernatorial races.

It pits state Rep. Summer Lee, a Democrat from Swissvale, against a Plum councilman who shares a name with the person who currently represents the area — Rep. Mike Doyle.

But the Mike Doyle on the ballot is a 57-year-old Republican who lost bids for the state House to former state Rep. Joe Markosek in 2010 and 2012.

The new 12th Congressional District stretches from Pittsburgh to Jeannette and parts of eastern and southern Allegheny and western Westmoreland counties.

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If Lee is to win in November, the state representative will need to hold on to a majority of Democratic voters in the two counties — 332,560 combined — compared to 152,513 registered Republicans, and 82,098 independents. While Doyle had no opposition in the primary, Lee won a tough five-candidate primary by fewer than 1,000 votes and more Democrats voted against her — 66,525 — than voted for her — 47,958.

"We need to remind Democrats of their roots — supporting the labor movement and Social Security benefits," Lee said.

State Rep. Summer Lee, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for Pennsylvania's 12th District U.S. Congressional district, speaks to supporters before being endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh, Thursday, May 12, 2022. Pennsylvania's primary election is Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke)

Plum's Doyle is counting on Democratic voters turning their backs on Lee because of what the Doyle campaign claims is a candidate who is too liberal. In a recent campaign swing in Jeannette, the Republican encouraged a group of supporters from Westmoreland County not to shy away from houses with signs supporting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro and try to persuade party-line voters to cast a ballot for him.

Big-name Democrats and progressives have come to Lee's support late in the race. She has seen an influx of nearly $50,000 in campaign donations in the final stretch of the campaign, including funds from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D- Calif., and her PAC. Progressive independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will be canvassing with Lee in the district the week before Election Day.

Lee has appeared on the local airwaves with a political ad reminding voters that the Mike Doyle on the ballot is not the same as the incumbent, and claims that her opponent will cut Social Security and Medicare and supports a ban on abortion.

Doyle said those accusations are false and, while he thinks spending in Washington has gotten out of control, he wouldn't vote to cut those programs.

"I guarantee there are billions and billions of dollars in waste," said Doyle, who said cutting government spending should help address inflation.

He also said that he doesn't support blanket bans on all abortions. Initially, Doyle told the Tribune-Review that he would support a national abortion ban at 15 weeks as proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Mike Doyle, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 12th U.S. Congressional district, speaks to a crowd gathered during a get-out-the-vote rally, Sunday, May 15, 2022, in Bethel Park, Pa. Doyle is running uncontested on the Republican ticket. Pennsylvania's primary election is Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke)

But later, after reading the Graham bill, Doyle said he actually doesn't support that bill because it doesn't have adequate language surrounding exceptions for the life of mother, and rape or incest.

If elected, Lee said she would vote to codify the Roe V. Wade abortion rights that were stripped when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision this summer. She went further and said its important to fight for pro-choice candidates at every level and in every year, citing a potential future ballot measure that state Republicans are eyeing that would open the door for an abortion ban in Pennsylvania.

Doyle has made border security a highlight of his campaign, citing the record number of crossings. He would support construction of additional walls and fences.

He said he is open to immigration reform to help address the issues, but didn't offer specifics, saying he is "for sitting down at the table."

Lee said her motivation for running is to represent voices in Congress that are usually absent: working-class voters, Blacks and other marginalized groups. She said her experience growing up in the Mon Valley and advocating for those individuals is needed in Washington.

"When we give attention to the people that are most harmed and most impacted, it is not the detriment of those who have the most," said Lee. "It actually lifts everyone."

Lee has also highlighted "corporate greed" as a cause for inflation and said that corporations should pay their fair share in taxes. She said Congress should support bills to limit corporations from buying back stocks, especially after they received bailouts from the government.