Republican leaders in the state Senate should immediately seat Democrat James Brewster to his elected post in the 45th District, just as they should have on Tuesday before pulling a bizarre and petty stunt on the floor of the state Senate chamber.
Brewster, a Democrat, secured a narrow re-election victory in his district, located just east of Pittsburgh, which has been certified by the state. His win is being contested in court by his opponent, Republican Nicole Ziccarelli, who also asked Senate leadership not to seat him.
The dispute devolved Tuesday into a heated and chaotic spat on the floor of the state Senate that ended only after Brewster agreed that his fellow Democrats could be sworn in without him.
Before that, Senate Republicans moved to strip Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, of his powers as presiding officer of the Senate for the day after Fetterman indicated Brewster had won his election and should be seated. The move to work around Fetterman’s position led to an inappropriate episode in which incoming Senate President Pro Tem Jake Corman, R-Centre County, started to preside over the chamber while Fetterman stood behind him on the rostrum, shouting out his objections.
None of this should have happened. At least for now, Brewster has been declared the winner in an election that has been certified by the state and he should have been able to take his seat in the Senate chamber on Tuesday.
Ziccarelli does have the right and has gone to federal court to dispute the election results. In her lawsuit, Ziccarelli is asking a judge to throw out 311 mail-in ballots counted in Allegheny County that lacked a handwritten date on the outer ballot envelope. She contends that counting these ballots provided the margin of victory to Brewster. Without them, Ziccarelli would win by 24 votes, she contends.
That is an issue for the court to decide. For now, the state has certified that Brewster won by 69 votes. He should be seated, and Republicans should stand down until the court rules.
A spokeswoman for Corman said Tuesday that Senate Republicans voted to remove Fetterman as presiding officer because he and the Democrats were violating the Senate’s rules for conducting proceedings.
“When our rules are not followed, chaos takes over,” the spokeswoman said.
The Senate rules should be followed, and objections can be noted, but the chaos that Republican senators stirred Tuesday makes a mockery of decorum and orderly government.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.