Democrat Elizabeth Warren, architect of the consumer watchdog agency set up by the Obama administration after the meltdown on Wall Street, was elected to the Senate on Tuesday, winning a hard-fought victory against Republican Sen. Scott Brown in one of the most expensive Senate contests of the year.
The race took on epic proportions as the candidates spent a total of more than $68 million and hurled charges and countercharges in an increasingly bitter campaign that was watched closely by both national parties while they dueled for control of the upper chamber.
With about three-quarters of the vote in, Warren had almost 53 percent to 47 percent for Brown.
Warren, speaking to supporters at a Boston hotel, credited what she called a grass-roots campaign with helping her unseat a popular incumbent.
"You did what everyone thought was impossible. You taught a scrappy first-time candidate how to get in the ring and win," she said. "You took on the powerful Wall Street banks and special interests and you let them know you want a senator who'll be out there fighting for the middle class all of the time."
In conceding defeat, Brown told supporters: "We stood strong in the fight, and we stand strong now even in disappointment."
"Whatever the future holds, I am a fortunate man," he added.
As the television announced Warren as the winner shortly after 10 p.m., the room at the Mid-Cape Democratic headquarters in Hyannis erupted in loud cheers.
"There were people here working for (President Barack) Obama, but most of the people who came into this office were here for Elizabeth," said Mary Driscoll, who joined the campaign in July after being laid off and coordinated the 200 or so volunteers.
"She's a really regular person who speaks from her heart," Driscoll said.
Janet Joakim, a Barnstable town councilor, called Warren's election to a Senate seat "historic" because she will be the first female Senator from this state.
"She is absolutely paying attention to what her constituents want," Joakim said.
Campaign volunteer Ellen Kluber's primary reason for supporting Warren was her stand for women's rights.
"Massachusetts has always been a strong supporter of women and now they have a woman representing them," Kluber said.
Warren, a Harvard Law professor making her first attempt at elective office, helped create the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the mortgage crisis and the financial abuses exposed on Wall Street. Brown went to Washington after stunning the Democrats by winning a 2010 special election for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat.
The two candidates agreed to take no outside money from super PACs and other independent groups but still raised staggering amounts, with the GOP hoping to solidify its gains in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, and the Democrats mortified by the thought of a Republican serving in the seat held for 47 years by the foremost liberal on Capitol Hill.
Warren cast herself as a fighter for the middle class and portrayed Brown as beholden to "big oil" and "millionaires and billionaires."
She stumbled early over questions of her claims of Indian heritage and her decision to identify herself as a minority in law school directories from 1986 to 1995.
Brown accused her of misrepresenting her background and using it to help land a job at Harvard, something Warren and those who hired her denied.
Brown was elected with tea party backing two years ago but steered a more centrist course in the Senate. During his campaign against Warren, he downplayed his GOP roots and touted instances in which he broke with his party, including supporting the creation of the financial watchdog agency and backing the rights of gays to serve openly in the military.
Union leaders, who had staked their political reputations on a Warren win, said the victory vindicates their efforts.
Times staff writer Doug Fraser contributed to this report.
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