Democrat Elizabeth Warren unseats US Sen. Scott Brown
Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, center right, greets a supporter outside the polls after voting in Cambridge, Mass. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Warren is running against Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who was elected in a special election in 2010 after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., picks up his ballot with his daughter Arianna, left, to cast his vote in Wrentham, Mass., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Brown is facing Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl)
BOSTON — 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 the year’s most expensive Senate contest in the nation.
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.
Warren becomes the first woman elected to the Senate from Massachusetts.
With about three-quarters of the vote in, Warren had almost 53 percent to 47 percent for Brown.
“You and I have waged a great campaign,” Brown told supporters at a Boston hotel in conceding defeat. “We stood strong in the fight, and we stand strong now even in disappointment.”
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 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.
She said she was told by her family that her mother had Cherokee and Delaware Indian background, but she was unable to provide documentation. 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.
Warren found herself the butt of jokes from bloggers and columnists. The issue later backfired on Brown when some of his staffers were caught on video at one his campaign rallies mocking Warren by doing a “tomahawk chop” and shouting war whoops. Brown condemned the behavior.
Warren cast herself as a fighter for the middle class and portrayed Brown as beholden to “big oil” and “millionaires and billionaires.”
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.
Warren supporters gathered at Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza to watch the votes come in. Union officials, who had staked their political reputations on a Warren win, said the victory vindicates their efforts.
“We had a good day,” said Edward Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. “We worked very hard to put the next senator from Massachusetts in D.C, to make sure our country is moving in the right direction.”
Warren supporter Edy Rees, 70, of Boston’s Roslindale neighborhood, was jubilant.
“She’s for the 100 percent of us, whereas poor Scott Brown, maybe he’s for himself, maybe he’s for the 1 percent, but either way, he’s not doing his job,” said a grinning Rees, who wore a “Grandparent for Elizabeth” button.
Bob Long, a 73-year-old retired accountant from Saugus, said he backed Brown and didn’t buy Warren’s campaign pitch that she was the better candidate for the middle class.
“He’s a local guy from Wakefield. I think he’s well-schooled in the needs of the average person. We all know what his background is. We all know that he didn’t come with a silver spoon in his mouth,” Long said. “That’s why I find it hard to think that he would be worrying about any millionaires.”
Fellow Saugus resident Ethel Swirka, 80, cast her ballot for Warren, in part because she liked the idea of voting for a woman: “I think women should have more say in the way the government is run. It’s not a man’s world anymore.”