The Lead

W. Pa. Sen. Brewster takes oath of office in drama-free ceremony

By: - January 13, 2021 12:31 pm

Sen. James Brewster, D-Allegheny, takes his oath of office. (Screen grab)

Democratic State Sen. James Brewster was sworn in for a fourth term representing parts of Allegheny and Westmoreland County on Wednesday, roughly one week after the decision by GOP leaders to delay his inauguration led to a shouting match on the Senate floor. 

Brewster, who won his race in the 45th Senate District by a mere 69 votes in November, took his oath of office during a 15-minute Senate session in Harrisburg.

The brief session did not include any remarks from Brewster or from leaders of the Democratic or Republican caucuses.

The ceremony was scheduled on one day’s notice after U.S. District Judge Nicholas Ranjan struck down a ballot contest brought by Brewster’s Republican opponent Nicole Ziccarelli, who sought to have 311 mail-in ballots tossed for technicalities – a request that would have erased Brewster’s lead and put Ziccarrelli ahead by 93 votes. 

Republican leaders in the state Senate said last week that they would refuse to seat anyone in the 45th district seat until they got a ruling in Ziccarelli’s case. 

They also raised the possibility that senators would use Senate procedures to choose a victor in the 45th District if Ranjan said he wouldn’t weigh in on matters of state election law.

The acrimony over Brewster’s inauguration erupted on the Senate floor last week, as Democrats accused Republicans of trying to “rob” Brewster of a state-certified election victory. 

Ziccarelli first disputed the mail-in ballots in November and took her challenge all the way to the state Supreme Court. 

Secretary of State Kathy Bookvar certified the results after that court ruled that thousands of voters who signed, but did not date, their mail-in ballots had cast valid votes. 

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.