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Bhavini Patel Loses Highly Publicized U.S. Congressional Bid From Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District

Bhavini Patel Loses Highly Publicized U.S. Congressional Bid From Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District

  • The 30-year-old Indian American’s challenge was backed by Hindu nationalist right and pro-Israel lobby against progressive member of the “Squad,” Rep. Summer Lee.

Indian American Bhavini Patel lost her bid to U.S. Congress from Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in the Democratic Congressional primaries yesterday (April 23). A member of the Edgewood Borough Council, Patel lost to incumbent Congresswoman Summer Lee, who received 59 percent of the votes as against Patel’s 41 percent. Lee’s candidacy was supported by high-profile progressives including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The 12th Congressional District includes much of Pittsburgh, stretches through eastern Allegheny County and includes parts of western Westmoreland County. The district votes “reliably Democratic in general elections, but the ongoing protests over the Israel-Hamas war placed the primary contest in a national spotlight,” the Associated Press reported. 

In a statement Patel said that while the result wasn’t one she or her team wanted, she was “extremely grateful” for her supporters. “This race was about so much more than me or my opponent,” she said “It was about passing commonsense laws that put money in working families’ pockets. It was about standing up to hate and stopping antisemitism. And it was about making sure President Biden gets re-elected in November.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that Patel’s loss “shows that a progressive candidate like Lee can still carry districts like Pittsburgh, despite her opponent and her supporters claiming that the incumbent’s views and alignment with the “Squad” in Congress did not accurately reflect the politics of the area.”

In the final days of the primaries, Patel took to X to criticize Lee for her votes related to the Israel-Hamas war and her lack of support for Israel when faced with resolutions condemning Iran’s attack on the country.

Lee first won in 2022 in a five-way Democratic primary, beating Steve Irwin, a former state official, by less than 1,000 votes. Patel had originally planned on running that year but later dropped out of the race. In a statement posted on her Facebook page, she said her campaign, launched on Jan. 20, “didn’t gain any momentum.” She will “continue to serve her local community as Edge wood Borough council member,” she added.

Patel was accused garnering support from right-wing Hindu and pro-Israel groups. In January, the Pittsburgh City Paper reported of an online fundraiser for Patel. Addressing 30 of her supporters on Zoom, she “spoke of plans to tap into Republican support for her campaign, attract national spending, and eventually take down the progressive Democratic incumbents,” the Pittsburgh City Paper report said. “We are making really strong efforts within the Jewish community, within the Hindu community, to encourage people registered as independents and Republicans to re-register as Democrats for the primary,” the publication quoted her as saying. 

She was also “boosted by Moderate PAC, a group mostly funded by Jeffrey Yass, a Republican billionaire, political mega-donor, and leading candidate to be former President Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary if he wins election this year,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

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She also earned the endorsement of the well-known 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club in Pittsburgh, as well as backing from many local elected officials.

Patel is co-founder and CEO of BeamData, a civic tech company established in 2019. Through her startup, she has created an app, Be the Change, to keep citizens connected to state legislators to address social justice and inequality. 

The genesis for the app began in 2019 when Patel ran for Allegheny County Council. She spent a lot of time knocking on doors, wanting to introduce herself and her agenda. She however lost the race, but those conversations inspired the idea for an app that offers users a direct line to their elected public officials, she told the University of Pittsburgh magazine in an interview. So at the beginning of the pandemic, she launched Be the Change. 

According to her website, Patel was raised by a single mom, who immigrated here from India in the late 1990s, and built a food-truck business in Pittsburgh. Patel worked at the family business since she was 13, prepping food, taking orders, and balancing the books, and “learned hard work and persistence,” the website says. 

She attended the University of Pittsburgh and then earned her masters in international relations as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar at the University of Oxford. She has been recognized as 30 Under 30 by Pittsburgh Business Times, 40 Under 40 by Pittsburgh Magazine. She lives in Edgewood with her mom, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and dog, Nat.

(Top photo, courtesy of Patel for PA.)

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