Democrat takes Senate seat after Republicans sued to undo election
HARRISBURG (AP) — A Democratic state senator in Pennsylvania was sworn in Wednesday to his third full term, a week after the chamber’s Republican majority blocked him from taking his Pittsburgh-area seat amid a lawsuit seeking to disqualify ballots that helped him win.
Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Allegheny, made no mention of the fight during his brief swearing-in ceremony in the Senate chamber or in a later statement.
The state had certified Brewster’s 69-vote victory, but Republicans last week refused to seat Brewster while a federal court was considering Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli’s latest lawsuit to overturn the result.
In an ugly scene on the Senate floor, Democrats accused Republicans of breaking the law. Republicans insisted that senators have the constitutional authority to decide who should be seated in the chamber.
Republicans relented after U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan rejected Ziccarelli’s argument that Allegheny County’s decision to count mail-in ballots that lacked a handwritten date — and state court decisions allowing Allegheny County to count them — violated her rights and the rights of voters.
Ranjan refused to dispute the state high court’s ruling — despite Ziccarelli’s urging — and said it is binding on federal courts and nullifies Ziccarelli’s arguments that Allegheny County was wrong to count the ballots.
Ziccarelli afterward conceded and said she will not appeal. Republicans hold 28 of the chamber’s 50 seats.