COLUMBUS, Ohio - Democrat Sherrod Brown has won re-election to the U.S. Senate after one of the most expensive and closely watched match-ups in the country.
The 60-year-old Brown beat Republican challenger Josh Mandel despite an onslaught of attacks from conservative outside groups. Mandel is the state treasurer and a Marine veteran.
The crowd at the downtown Columbus Hilton, where Democrats gathered to watch results, erupted into cheers when Brown was declared the winner.
Brown, who lost his voice earlier in the day, did his best to make his victory speech, but his voice cracked often and it was difficult for hundreds of his supporters to hear him.
He told the raucous crowd that the election was about the middle class.
"The middle class is not just the economic middle of this country. Most of us in the country think of ourselves as middle class. It's the values we share. It's the principles we believe in. It's the opportunities we create for our children," Brown said.
Brown gulped down water, but became barely audible. He handed his speech to his wife, Connie Schultz, who finished reading it.
Schultz, a former Plain Dealer columnist, joked, "I can't believe I'm reading somebody else's writing."
Brown appeared confident as he arrived with his wife and their dog at the Hilton around 3 p.m. He told NewsChannel5 that he was heading to his room to write his speech. Brown was asked, "Which one?" He responded, "There's only one speech."
Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up at Brown's event and praised Brown.
"Brown is one of the ablest, most enlightened senators there is in the entire senate. He has made a great investment in the people," Jackson said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS and other outside groups spent more in Ohio than any other state, criticizing Brown's support for President Barack Obama's stimulus and health care overhaul.
Mandel called Brown a career politician, seeking to turn his decades in office against him. Mandel told voters he would make Washington more accountable.
Brown made the auto industry bailout a key campaign issue, highlighting Mandel's opposition to the rescue that affected about 800,000 Ohio jobs.
Campaign staff members told the media that Brown would not be available for one-on-one interviews until Wednesday because his voice was gone and he needed to rest.
Brown will be 65 after serving another six years in the U.S. Senate.
He said he's not sure if he would seek a third term.
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