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Westmoreland Attorney to Challenge
Brewster in 45th District

White Oak native Ziccarelli says senate district needs ‘a fresh voice’

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
November 25, 2019
Posted in: Politics & Elections

(Submitted photo courtesy of the candidate)

A Westmoreland County attorney has announced plans to challenge state Sen. Jim Brewster's bid for re-election in the 45th District.

But Nicole Ziccarelli of Lower Burrell is no stranger to the Mon-Yough area. A graduate of McKeesport Area High School, Ziccarelli grew up in White Oak and is a former member of the advisory board at Penn State Greater Allegheny campus.

She will seek the Republican nomination in the April 28 primary.

“I am running because the 45th District needs a fresh voice in the State Senate who is committed to solving problems and advocating for the needs of our community,” Ziccarelli said in a prepared statement. “From the Allie-Kiski Valley to the Mon Valley, we need a strong advocate to stand up for what’s most important — job creation, what’s best for kids and families, improved infrastructure and quality, affordable healthcare.”

Brewster, of McKeesport, was first elected to the state Senate in 2010 to fill the unexpired term of former state Sen. Sean Logan of Monroeville, who resigned his seat to take a job at UPMC.

A former McKeesport city councilman and mayor, Brewster, a Democrat, previously worked as a vice president for fraud management at Mellon Bank.

In Pennsylvania, senators are elected every four years, with terms staggered so that 25 of the state's 50 senators are up for election every two years.

Control of the state senate has been in Republican hands since 1994, but with 2020 being an election year, Pennsylvania Democrats have had hopes of breaking that GOP domination.

The sprawling 45th District stretches from the Allegheny River to the Monongahela River and through the South Hills of Pittsburgh, encompassing nearly 40 municipalities in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, including McKeesport, New Kensington, Vandergrift, Monroeville, Plum, Pitcairn, Duquesne, Glassport, Clairton, West Mifflin, Baldwin and Brentwood.

In 2012, Brewster survived an attempt by Pennsylvania Republicans to eliminate the district and that year won a four-year term in his own right. He was then re-elected in 2016 without opposition.

Ziccarelli is a graduate of Penn State University and the university's Dickinson School of Law.

While attending Penn State, she was appointed by then-Gov. Mark Schweiker as the student representative to the university's board of trustees. Ziccarelli said she also held a legal research fellowship with the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington, D.C., and served as a summer law clerk for the late state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy and worked in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.

Upon graduation, Ziccarelli said, she began her legal practice at the Pittsburgh law firm of Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, then clerked for Westmoreland County Judge Christian F. Scherer.

Since 2013, Ziccarelli has maintained her own law practice in New Kensington, specializing in family law, mediation, estate planning and real estate.

She also serves as a court-appointed guardian for minor children. In addition, until 2016, she maintained a blog about food and her family at www.mediterraneanbaby.com.

Ziccarelli described herself as the descendant of "a long line of hard-working, blue-collar Pennsylvanians." One branch of her family operated a coal-hauling business in McKeesport, she said, while another owned a dairy in the northern part of the state.

“They were everyday hardworking people ... that came from humble, immigrant beginnings, but were rich in traditions and committed to their community,” she said.

If elected, Ziccarelli said her focus areas would include fighting the opioid epidemic and strengthening laws protecting children.

She also would work to balance economic development with public health concerns, she said.

“I believe we should all fight for clean air (and) clean water, and the preservation of quality, good-paying jobs in our communities,” Ziccarelli said. “The concepts are not mutually exclusive.”

But, she said, “less government, not more” is the “pathway to success.”

“The only thing constant is change and the time for change is now,” Ziccarelli said.

She and her husband, Frank-John, have four children who attend local public schools in Lower Burrell, she said.

Ziccarelli’s volunteer work has included service to the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council as a tutor and at Family House in Shadyside. She also has served as a member of “The Visionaries,” a group of young professionals at The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County; the development board for the Dickinson School of Law; and the Saint Barbara’s Philoptochos Society of the Oakmont Greek Orthodox Church.

Jason Togyer is the editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at jtogyer@gmail.com.

Originally published November 25, 2019.

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