Pitt law professor mounts primary challenge against Rep. Doyle


Image via University of Pittsburgh

Pitt law professor Jerry Dickinson plans to challenge to Rep. Michael Doyle, D-Pa., in the 2020 Democratic primary election.

By Brian Gentry, Assistant News Editor

A Pitt law professor is preparing to mount a primary challenge against Rep. Michael Doyle, D-Pa., Pittsburgh’s representative in the U.S. House.

The professor, Jerry Dickinson, announced Wednesday his candidacy in the 2020 Democratic primary election in the 18th Congressional District, which contains all of Pittsburgh as well as many southern and eastern suburbs such as Monroeville and Bethel Park.

“The people deserve a new voice and a true people’s champion,” Dickinson said in a tweet announcing his campaign.


Dickinson hails from Shaler, a township across the Allegheny River from Lawrenceville. He was a Fulbright Scholar to South Africa in 2009, where he studied housing and urban development. He previously worked at Reed Smith, a law firm in Pittsburgh, and founded the firm’s Housing Rights Project to offer legal services to Allegheny County tenants going through eviction proceedings.

According to his campaign’s website, he plans to focus on social justice issues, including class mobility, workers’ rights, affordable housing, health care and criminal justice reform.

He also wants to make President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall a central issue. Dickinson gave expert testimony to the U.S. Senate in 2017 against the border wall, and has also published numerous legal opinions in national publications such as The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

The 18th District has trended more progressively in recent elections. Reps. Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee, two progressive Democrats, won their respective primaries in the Pennsylvania House races in 2017, unseating two long-time Democrats, Reps. Dom Costa and Paul Costa.

Since Trump’s election in 2016, Doyle has voted with Trump’s position on House bills 19.1% of the time, according to election analysis website FiveThirtyEight, and 0% of the time since the start of the 116th Congress in 2019. He was described as the 38th most bipartisan House member in the 114th Congress by Georgetown University’s School of Public Policy.

Doyle has served in the House of Representatives since 1995 and has not faced any significant challenges in general elections since his re-election in 1996 — in every campaign since, he has won with at least 65% of the vote. He currently serves on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.