Pennsylvania Capitol Building. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).
Not even 24 hours after state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-McKeesport) announced he would retire at the end of 2024, two Democrats have formally announced they will seek to replace him in the western Pennsylvania seat.
State Rep. Nick Pisciottano (D-Allegheny) and Makenzie White, a licensed social worker and community organizer, are both seeking the Democratic Party nomination in the race for the 45th state Senate district.
“My family has called the Mon Valley home since before the Civil War. I went into public service to make sure the next generation has the opportunity to succeed here like I did,” Pisciottano, who was first elected to the state House’s 38th District in 2020, said in a press release. “That means good schools for every kid, safe communities, and good jobs that pay a fair wage. That’s what I fight for in the state House and I want to take that fight to the state Senate.”
Pisciottano, who took over as chair of the Allegheny County House Democratic delegation in 2022 from current Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, serves on the House Commerce, Consumer Protection Technology and Utilities, Labor and Industry, and Transportation committees.
He enters the race with widespread support from Democratic elected officials, including Brewster, and labor unions in the region. According to WESA, Pisciottano will not run for reelection in the state House, which will result in an open race for the 38th state House District in 2024.
White’s formal campaign kickoff is scheduled Thursday in McKeesport.
“As someone who has worked in the nonprofit and healthcare arena, Makenzie brings a unique set of skills and practical experience that she will use to fight for people in Harrisburg and ensure a more equitable, just future that puts communities first,” according to a press release from her campaign.
White promotes her work in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic as proof she understands the need for change in the mental and physical health system. According to her campaign, White would be the first woman to hold the district seat, the youngest Democratic woman in Pennsylvania elected to the state Senate, and only the second Democratic woman elected to the state Senate west of the Susquehanna River.
Brewster, first elected to the state Senate during a special election in 2010, has been a staple in western Pennsylvania politics for decades. Prior to being re-elected three times in the state Senate, he was the mayor of McKeesport beginning in 2004 and was first elected to McKeesport City Council in 1995, serving as council president for part of his tenure there.
“It has been an honor, privilege, and pleasure to serve the citizens of the 45th Senatorial District in the Mon Valley and Southwestern Pennsylvania in the state Senate, but it is time to explore other options and take on new challenges,” Brewster said in a press release on Thursday. “While I am concluding my service in the Senate at the end of 2024, I will continue to help the communities of the 45th district.”
Although Brewster was unopposed in the 2012 and 2016 general elections, he defeated Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli by 69 votes in 2020 to earn a third term, after successfully winning a dispute in court over mail-in ballots to seat him.
Brewster told TribLive that following redistricting, which resulted in a few liberal suburban municipalities being moved into the district, he believes the seat will remain in Democratic control, following his retirement.
No Republican candidates have formally announced a run for the seat yet, although the Allegheny County Republican Committee weighed in on Brewster’s retirement announcement, accusing Brewster of attempting to “anoint a hand-picked successor” and said that Republicans will “have a candidate that presents voters with a real choice.”
Lt. Gov. Austin Davis described Brewster as a mentor and state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) called the retiring state Senator a dear friend and a “strong advocate for McKeesport and Allegheny County at large.”
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