Mike Doyle, a Republican, is running to represent the Pittsburgh area in Congress.
Mike Doyle, a Democrat, is also retiring after representing the Pittsburgh area in Congress for 27 years.
Oddly, a first-time Republican congressional candidate shares his name with a long-serving Democratic congressman, and the potential for confusion at the ballot box has Summer Lee’s campaign on the offensive.
Lee, a progressive Democrat, is running against the Republican Doyle for control of Pennsylvania’s 12th, which was redrawn along with districts across the country after the 2020 Census. The problem is that many people in the new 12th district were part of the old 18th district, which was repped by the Democratic Doyle.
Lee’s campaign released a short video Wednesday to try to set the record straight.
“I’m running against an extreme anti-choice, pro-NRA Republican who wants to cut Social Security & Medicare,” she tweeted. “Your vote in #PA12 is a vote for a far-right GOP majority or against it.”
“We always knew it was going to be an issue,” Lee’s campaign manager, Abby Gardner, told HuffPost.
Campaign staffers saw “an uptick in confusion” among residents in the area after mail-in-ballots went out to voters in early October, she said.
“I wouldn’t say it was the majority of conversations by any means. But it happened enough,” Gardner said.
A voter who notices they’ve selected the wrong candidate before turning in their ballot has the option of “spoiling” their ballot to vote in person, but once a ballot has been mailed, it’s too late to change.
West Pennsylvania resident Anita Gordon, 79, told HuffPost she filled in the oval for the Republican Mike Doyle on her mail-in ballot by accident. She only realized her error when checking Nextdoor, the neighborhood social media app.
“I liked the Democratic Mike Doyle. I mean, he had been in Congress for quite some time,” Gordon said. “I had no idea. To think that there would be a Republican with that name ― that was unbelievable.”
Asked whether she thought the Republican candidate’s campaign had been clear about his political position in its messaging, Gordon replied, “I can’t say yes.”
Gardner told HuffPost that she believes the Doyle campaign is not going out of its way to make a clear distinction between the Democratic veteran and the Republican newbie. She said that some voters told her they just weren’t thinking when they saw Doyle listed as a Republican, because Pennsylvania allows candidates to cross-file to multiple parties in certain other elections, including school board and judicial seats.
“I think the entire purpose of his campaign is to confuse people. I think they’re not interested in clarifying, because his website does not identify that he’s a Republican. His literature doesn’t identify that he’s a Republican. His yard signs say, ‘Democrats for Doyle.’”
The Doyle campaign did not return HuffPost’s request for comment.
Back in May, Doyle told an opinion columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “it felt too much like a gimmick to run against the current congressman ― also named Mike Doyle ― in a head-to-head race.” He said he decided to throw his hat in the race after the incumbent announced his retirement and the borders of the district shifted to be less favorable to a Democratic candidate.
Rep. Mike Doyle commented on the confusion in the same newspaper.
“My name is on the ballot,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette two weeks ago. “But it’s not me. There is a gentleman with the same name as me who is running in the new 12th District, which is part of the old 18th District. That’s about the only thing we share in common is the same name.”