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SD45: State Certifies Brewster Win

Election Day 2020 was six weeks ago and the Department of State has finally certified the last outstanding race in Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, DOS certified a 69 vote win for incumbent state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny): 66,261-to-66,192 over GOP challenger Nicole Ziccarelli.

Sound settled? Not yet. Ziccarelli is challenging a batch of ballots in federal court that would tip the result to her. Senate Republican leadership backs her position. The result Wednesday night was a social media battle between Senate Ds and Rs. 

Around 7pm, Democrats celebrated. 

Two hours later, the Senate Republicans responded, led by President Pro Tem Jake Corman (R-Centre) and Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland). 

On Thursday afternoon, Ziccarelli sent out a thread of tweets explaining her confidence in being declared the winner when the case is heard in federal court.

The legal issue surrounds a specific batch of 310 mail ballots that arrived before 8pm on election day, but which were not dated by voters. Allegheny County included those votes in the tally, which put Brewster ahead of Ziccarelli. The other county in the 45th district, Westmoreland, did not (although Brewster reportedly won Westmoreland’s undated ballots, so adding them to the count wouldn’t help Ziccarelli.) Voters were instructed to sign and date mail ballots; Ziccarelli’s position is that ballots that didn’t should be tossed. 

Her case is a long shot. The Pa. Supreme Court already ruled that such ballots should be counted. The Court said the provenance of the sign-and-date requirement was muddled, and that small technical errors shouldn’t result in disenfranchisement. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals already determined that the issue is a state-law one, not federal. If Ziccarelli wins in federal court on Jan. 8, eventually the matter would arrive back at the 3rd Circuit. Her narrow path to office likely would require a victory before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

SD45 will determine if Republicans net one state Senate seat or break even this cycle; if Brewster is seated the GOP majority will be 28-to-21, plus 1 Independent.

This story was updated to correct the following: Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) and include Ziccarelli’s tweets responding to the state’s certification.

11 Responses

  1. On the subject of State legislative districts, that is ongoing scandal. PA Supreme Court showed it was possible to draw rational districts for Congress. That example should be followed. Political jiggering of district boundaries is anti-democratic. Fair boundaries can best be drawn by a computer.

  2. If GOP PA legislature had written clear legislation, there would be clear answers to all these questions. GOP has nobody but themselves to blame.

  3. Senator Costa drew Senate District 45. It was the Senate District that lost the most population from the 2000 census to the 2010 census. It probably should have been moved to the eastern part of the state. Senate Democratic Leader made a valiant fight to the other members of the Reapportionment Commission to keep SD 45 and move Republican Western seat SD 40. This was much to the chagrin of Commission Member, Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi who argued at the public hearings that SD 45 should be moved east. Senator Costa brillantly figured that the 2011 newly configured SD 45 was the only way the Democrats could hold on to that seat for 10 years. In a stroke of genius judging from Senator Brewster’s very close win this year, he was absolutely correct in his calculations.

  4. The Senate Republicans should spend more time drawing up fair legislative distracts other than the pretzel shaped districts that were thrown out by the Pa Supreme Court. The public has requested the Senate and House Republican caucus to advocate forming a nonpartisan commission to promote a fundamentally fair Congressional and State districts but they continue to play their games and now find fault with Senator Brewster’s 69 vote victory. What the Republican State Senate was saying in the Brewster case is that they are ok with the Courts tossing out votes cast for Sen Brewster so their candidate can win.

    1. You are very correct. I live in 45, and it is drawn like a pretzel cut in half. In 2018, a Republican in Berks county won by about the same number as Brewster this year. The GOP didn’t care that year, of course because they won. As a little bit of hope for us in the next year, for the first time in decades Democrats may have a say in state level redistricting at least. State level seats are formed by a legislative commission including the Majority/minority leaders of both houses, plus a fifth member they have to agree on. If they don’t, which they rarely do, the state supreme court picks a fifth member. For the past couple of decades, Republicans have had a majority in the PA supreme court during redistricting years, but now of course the Dems have a majority.
      Also for us, we may have a little bit of hope for congressional seats. The Republicans will either have to compromise with Wolf, or face the PA Supreme Court that they hate.

    2. Senator Costa fought very hard to keep Jim Brewster’s 45th Senate District from getting moved to Eastern Pennsylvania during the 2011 reapportionment. He got a Republican seat (Jane Orie’s 40th District) moved east instead. How soon we forget.

  5. This race was very similar to PA Senate District 6 in 2018, where the Republican winner won by around 70 votes also. On apart of technicality, Democrats in the state legislature have more of a say on state level districts. The legislative commission includes the majority/minority leaders of both sides of the Assembly, plus a 5th person that they all have to agree on. They rarely agree on a 5th member, which leaves the decision up to the PA supreme court with a Dem majority. The past two decades, Republicans had a trifecta of control when drawing districts. Based on this, I see one of two things happening.

    If Brewster wins the lawsuit, his home district will be drawn more compact, unlike how it is now drawn with thin boundaries the size of a block in some places and overstretched overall size into neighboring Westmoreland County. If his districting is drawn more fairly with minimal municipality splits unlike the present, it would be more Dem friendly than a 50-50 tossup.

    If somehow Ziccarelli wins, they would include her home town of Lower Burrell in the neighboring districting represented by Kim Ward, resulting in a primary showdown, which may be unlikely seeing the Ward is at this time Majority leader.

  6. Notice that Allegheny county did not count the illegal votes until they realized Brewster needed them. That’s all you need to know.

    1. The Truth is an absolute lie! He believes there should be a do over in the 4 contested states for the POTUS.

  • Does the NYC Verdict Make You More or Less Likely to Vote For Trump in 2024?

    • Less Likely (36%)
    • More Likely (34%)
    • Makes No Difference (30%)

    Total Voters: 112

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