Both candidates predict victory on Nov. 2.By Jon Delano

WESTMORELAND COUNTY (KDKA) — Election Day is just eight days away, and one race is getting some attention in Westmoreland County.

District Attorney John Peck is getting his first serious challenge in years.

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Democrat Peck is a familiar figure in the courthouse, a seasoned prosecutor who has been the county’s district attorney since 1994. Last year, Peck got the death penalty for the convicted killer of New Kensington police officer Brian Shaw.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Republican Nicole Ziccarelli, 30 years younger than Peck, said she can bring new vitality to the office, something Peck says he hasn’t lost.

“We want it to be as safe as it possibly can be for a better future in Westmoreland County. We need to aggressively fight the war on drugs that we are desperately losing right now. And’s it time we had a fresh perspective after 40 years. It’s time for a change, and it’s time for Nicole Ziccarelli,” Ziccarelli told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.

“I have a passion for the prosecution of cases and seeking justice in each and every case,” Peck said. “I still feel I can do it, and I’ve been doing it as vigorously and enthusiastically today as I’ve been doing for the last 40 years when I first became an assistant district attorney.”

Ziccarelli, who lost a very close election last year to Pennsylvania Sen. Jim Brewster, thinks this is her time.

“God closed a door and opened an even better window for me in this race. I get to serve 100,000 more people as district attorney in Westmoreland County. And our county has been changing quite dramatically over the past several decades, and it’s time we have a chief law enforcement officer who reflects who we are today,” she said.

For Ziccarelli that means, in part, electing a Republican as DA now that Westmoreland County has 20,000 more Republicans than Democrats.

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“I think it makes a huge difference. We are officially at 49 percent Republican to 40 percent Democrat. We have completely flip-flopped,” Ziccarelli said.

Peck says his party label should not matter.

“We base our prosecutions on the evidence and the law. People’s political parties, political affiliations, have nothing to do with the prosecution of cases,” Peck said.

While Peck prosecutes criminal cases himself, Ziccarelli, primarily a family lawyer, said she will be like a managing partner in a law firm.

“That’s exactly what the office needs right now is an administrator, first and foremost. There are a tremendous amount of very qualified attorneys and assistant district attorneys in that office,” Ziccarelli said.

Peck disagrees, citing his own experience as a prosecutor.

“Our most important function in the district attorney’s office is to try cases. That’s sort of where the rubber meets the road in this line of work,” Peck said.

“If you can’t try the case, then you’re really not much of a district attorney,” he added.

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Both candidates predict victory on Nov. 2.