Republican candidate loses bid to undo Allegheny County Senate election; Brewster officially elected

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Republican candidate for a western Pennsylvania state Senate seat lost her latest legal challenge Tuesday after asking a federal judge to effectively overturn a close race she lost to the Democratic incumbent.

U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan was under pressure to settle a fight that spilled onto the floor of the state Senate last week when majority Republicans refused to let Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster of Allegheny County be sworn in.

Ranjan rejected the argument by Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli that Allegheny County was not justified in counting 311 mail-in ballots without a handwritten date. The county’s decision had been upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Those ballots helped deliver a 69-vote victory to Brewster for a seat that also includes a portion of Westmoreland County.

Governor Wolf issued a statement Tuesday about the decision. “Today’s court decision reaffirms that Sen. Brewster won the election. He received the most votes and the court dismissed his opponent’s claims.  Sen. Brewster must be sworn in to represent the 45th Senate District in the Pennsylvania State Senate. The tragic events of the past week are a reminder that democracy must be preserved for today and future generations. The voters decide elections, not powerful Harrisburg politicians. Our nation has been through too much pain and disruption for this shameful power grab to continue.”

Last week, Democrats began shouting at Republicans on the Senate floor when majority Republicans prevented Brewster from being sworn in with other newly elected or re-elected senators. Democrats accused Republicans of a naked power grab, abusing their power and of mimicking President Donald Trump in trying to steal an election from voters.

Senate Republicans, who control the Senate, have maintained that they have the ultimate legal authority over deciding who will take the Senate seat, regardless of a certified election result or court decisions upholding it. They have said they wanted to wait for the court decision.

The result does not change the balance of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold 28 of the chamber’s 50 seats.

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