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Speculation Rising About 45th District Seat

McKeesport Mayor Cherepko: ‘Absolutely not’ a candidate

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
December 08, 2023
Posted in: Politics & Elections

Speculation is rising about the future of the 45th District seat currently held by state Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport.

An automated text-message poll currently being conducted in the Mon-Yough area claims Brewster is “unlikely to seek re-election” and then asks recipients, “which of the following Democrats would you be most likely to support to replace him?”

The poll lists state Rep. Nick Pisciottano of West Mifflin, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, Monroeville Mayor Nick Gresock and Brentwood social worker Makenzie White.

Brewster, who has represented the 45th District since 2010, declined comment on Thursday. White has already launched a website for her candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

The poll, which also accuses Brewster of “trying to hand pick his successor,” identifies itself as being from “Opinion Pennsylvania.” According to state Corporation Bureau records, “Opinion Pennsylvania” is a trade name registered to Communications Concepts LLC of Easton, Pa., a political consulting firm.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State show payments were made this year to Communications Concepts LLC by Republican Party committees in Lebanon, Lackawanna and Lehigh counties, as well as the Republican State Committee.

Reports from 2020 show that Communications Concepts LLC also was used by Republican Nicole Ziccarelli when she challenged Brewster for re-election that year.

A message left by Tube City Almanac on the phone number for the poll was not immediately returned.

Cherepko, who recently was elected to his fourth term as mayor of McKeesport, said Thursday he is “absolutely not interested” in seeking the 45th District seat if Brewster retires.

“I never ran for mayor for it to be a stepping stone,” Cherepko said. “I’ve said for the 12 years I’ve been in office that it’s extremely humbling to have had the opportunity to serve our city, and to once again be elected for four more, it’s something I’m looking forward to. I’m honored to be where I’m at.”

In addition to McKeesport and the adjoining communities, the 45th District stretches south to the Washington County line, east to Westmoreland County, west to Baldwin, Brentwood and Castle Shannon, and north through Monroeville and Plum.

Brewster, 75, a former Mellon Bank executive, served as mayor of McKeesport from 2003 until 2010, when he resigned to fill the unexpired term of former state Sen. Sean Logan of Monroeville.

He was elected to a full term in the state senate in 2012, then re-elected without opposition in 2016.

In the 2020 election, Ziccarelli and Republicans conducted an aggressive advertising campaign that tried to depict Brewster — who has long prided himself on his ability to work with both Republicans and Democrats — as a “tax-and-spend liberal.”

When unofficial returns showed Brewster leading by less than 100 votes, Ziccarelli and Pennsylvania Republicans went to federal court to stop Allegheny County officials from counting mail-in and absentee ballots that had machine-printed dates, rather than handwritten dates.

The ballot challenge was rejected by a federal judge who had been appointed by President Trump.

Ziccarelli was elected district attorney of Westmoreland County in 2021.

Originally published December 08, 2023.

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