Summer Lee headshot used by permission.

In the weeks since the primary, she’s received congratulatory calls from fellow legislators. Lee has heard from like-minded progressives who may have been cautious in the past, but are now optimistic because of the success of both Lee and Sara Innamorato.

Innamorato —  who beat five-time incumbent Dom Costa in May’s Democratic primary for the right to represent District 21 — and Lee talk almost every day about their goals and how they plan to affect change.

And it’s unlikely Lee will forget why she succeeded. Recently a friend told Lee that her campaign signs are still in the yards and windows of homes in Churchill, Forest Hills and other areas in the district. The friend thought it wasn’t because people forgot to take down the signs, but because Lee is “their candidate.”

“I think it’s real positive that people feel connected to a candidate in a way they haven’t for so long,” she says. “But I also think that’s the difference between when the system sends them a candidate and we send them ours. I’m just a product of the system sending us a candidate so people feel more invested and they have invested more.”

Rege Behe is an award-winning journalist, writer, and editor. A native of Trafford, Pa., he's covered school board meetings, reviewed concerts, and interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winners including Michael Chabon, Ron Chernow, and David McCullough. He never goes anywhere without a book, likes to hike, and is fond of animals.