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State Sen. Jim Brewster is one of several Democratic legislators in Pennsylvania who are trailing their challengers following Tuesday’s election.
With all precincts in both Allegheny and Westmoreland counties reporting Thursday night, Republican Nicole Ziccarelli was leading Brewster, the 45th Senatorial District incumbent, by about 1,500 votes, 63,058 to 61,515.
According to Allegheny County officials, more than 35,000 absentee ballots still need to be reviewed on Friday.
County spokeswoman Amie Downs said Thursday those ballots include approximately 29,000 that were incorrectly printed by a vendor, and had to be re-issued, as well as ballots that were damaged and could not be electronically scanned.
The county’s return board will meet at 9 a.m. Friday and begin reviewing those ballots.
In all, Downs said, the county received 675,928 ballots, including 348,485 absentee and mailed ballots. As of Thursday, more than 313,000 of the mailed-in ballots had already been scanned and recorded, she said.
The 45th District stretches from Forward Twp. in the south, through McKeesport, Monroeville and Plum, to Arnold, Lower Burrell, New Kensington and several other municipalities in Westmoreland.
Unofficial returns from the Allegheny County Elections Division indicate that Brewster, of McKeesport, carried the Allegheny County portion of his district, helped by a strong showing in the Mon-Yough area.
But Ziccarelli, a Lower Burrell attorney seeking her first elective office, ran up large margins in the Westmoreland portions of the district, where she currently leads Brewster by 63 to 36 percent, according to the Westmoreland County elections bureau.
Brewster was first elected to the state Senate in 2010 to fill the unexpired term of former state Sen. Sean Logan of Monroeville. He was elected to the Senate for a full four-year term in 2012 and re-elected without opposition in 2016.
A former Mellon Bank vice president and McKeesport city councilman and mayor, Brewster’s re-election campaign focused on his experience, his leadership and his record of bipartisan cooperation with Republicans and Democrats alike.
Brewster, who serves as Democratic chair of the Senate’s law & justice and game & fisheries committees, also ran on his strong support of law-enforcement agencies and the Second Amendment. He was endorsed by mayors and borough council members from throughout the district, as well as the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association.
But Brewster was targeted by a sustained negative advertising blitz from the Pennsylvania Republican Party that portrayed him as a “career politician,” claimed he supported tax hikes, and linked him to the Mon Valley’s decades-long economic decline.
Brewster accused Ziccarelli of “trying to lie and buy her way into office.”
For her part, Ziccarelli, a White Oak native and McKeesport Area High School graduate, said that if elected, she would provide “a fresh voice in the state Senate” and would focus on “job creation, what’s best for kids and families, improved infrastructure, and quality, affordable healthcare.”
While Brewster carried McKeesport, Duquesne and Clairton, Allegheny County election results indicate that Ziccarelli is winning six of White Oak’s seven voting districts, as well as six districts in North Versailles Twp. and all of Port Vue and Liberty.
Brewster is not the only Allegheny County Democrat who struggled on Tuesday. According to Stephen Caruso of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, State Rep. Frank Dermody of Pittsburgh is expected to lose his bid for re-election.
Dermody is the state House Democratic Leader. His 33rd Legislative District includes some of the same communities as the 45th Senatorial District, including Plum, Arnold and New Kensington.
State Sen. Pam Iovino, Democrat of Mt. Lebanon, also is projected to have lost her bid for re-election in the 37th Senatorial District.
Caruso quoted a Pittsburgh-based Republican political strategist, Mark Davin Harris, as saying that Tuesday’s election was “catastrophically bad” for Democratic office holders statewide.
Jason Togyer is editor of Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published November 05, 2020.