PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Next Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly gets sworn into office, and that includes 25 state senators. But one local Democratic state senator isn’t sure his Republican colleagues who control the Senate will allow him to take the oath of office.
Democrat Jim Brewster won the 45th senatorial district by 69 votes — at least that’s the certified results of the Secretary of State — but Republican Nicole Ziccarelli says 311 undated mail-in ballots should not be counted. She wins by 24 votes if those ballots are voided.
“I’ve been certified, and this is not the first close election in the history of the state,” Sen. Brewster told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
Although close, certified as having received more votes than his Republican challenger, Brewster expects his Republican colleagues to seat him Jan. 5.
“I do Jon,” he said. “I believe that the leadership, Senator Corman, understands that there’s a process here, and we have to always maintain the integrity of the democratic process.”
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Ziccarelli said, “I believe we have won this election by 24 votes. When all legally cast ballots are counted, we won by 24 votes, and I will be the next senator from the 45th district.”
Ziccarelli has asked a federal judge to toss out mail-in ballots in Allegheny County where voters neglected to date the outer envelopes contrary to state law — although the ballots were received on-time, and the state Supreme Court allowed the votes to be counted.
“We have to sign and date our ballots in Pennsylvania, period,” said Zicarelli.
The federal case could drag on for months, leaving the 45th district without a voice in the Senate. Brewster says it’s a terrible precedent for the majority party to refuse to seat someone from the opposite party.
“What do you tell thousands of voters out there when the election’s been over for almost two months and a certified candidate won’t be sworn in?” he said.
Ziccarelli says she’s really the winner but wouldn’t say whether her fellow Republicans will seat her on Tuesday.
“I believe the state Senate is going to do what they’re going to do. It’s within their purview, so I will leave it up to them,” said Ziccarelli.
Ziccarelli later put out a press release late Friday night saying attorneys on her behalf filed a contest petition with the state Senate. They’re asking the Senate to refuse to accept the Secretary of State’s certification.