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BOSTON (CBS/AP) – CBS News is projecting that Democrat Elizabeth Warren has defeated incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race. With 95% of precincts reporting, Warren held a lead of more than 200,000 votes.
Warren, a Harvard Law professor, will become the first woman ever elected as a Massachusetts U.S. Senator.
I didn’t build that, you built that,” she shouted to the crowd as she began her post-election victory speech. “You taught a scrappy first-time candidate how to get into the ring and win.”
Citing the late Senator Ted Kennedy, she repeated a vow to be a champion for the middle class.
“You want a senator who will be out there fighting for the middle class all of the time,” Warren told supporters. “I won’t just be your senator. I will be your champion. I promise.”
Watch Sen. Elect Warren’s Victory Speech
Senator-elect Warren also thanked Sen. Brown, and seemingly extending an olive branch to his supporters.
“The message you sent is clear. We need leaders in Washington who are willing to break the partisan gridlock and work regardless of party. I know I didn’t earn your vote. But I promise I’m going to work to earn your support,” she said.
Sen. Brown congratulated Senator-elect Warren and thanked his supporters during a concession speech Tuesday night for a hard-fought battle.
“I don’t want to see your sad faces. We ran a fantastic campaign,” Brown said as he opened his concession remarks.
Brown’s gracious and upbeat concession speech immediately fueled speculation that he may already be considering a future run for office in Massachusetts.
“Defeat is only temporary,” Brown said. “We have a tremendous amount of challenges, and I am looking forward to going back to the U.S. Senate, as dysfunctional as it is. And we’re going to try to do the people’s business until January. Then I’m going to turn over the reins and let somebody else take a stab at that dysfunctionality.
Sen. Brown was sent to Washington two years ago in a special election for the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat.
With the electorate in Massachusetts only 11 percent Republican, Brown needed to sway a significant number of independents and Democrats in order to hold the seat. Brown spent much of his campaign attempting to portray himself as a bipartisan, independent voice who considers each bill on its merits and votes for the best interest of Massachusetts residents, regardless of party.
Warren worked equally hard to cast herself as a fighter for the middle class, pointing to her work helping create the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She also won praise from President Obama, who called her “a strong, tireless and determined advocate.”
The race between Brown and Warren has been the most expensive political contest in Massachusetts history. As of mid-October, Brown and Warren had spent a combined $68 million on the race.
Riding on the election was not only one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats, but possibly the balance of power in the Senate, which ended up remaining in the hands of Democrats. Both national parties saw the Massachusetts contest as key to their path to political control of the chamber.
Warren attempted to use that balance of power to try and warn of what she said could be the consequences of Brown’s re-election. She said that while Brown has taken “some good votes,” re-electing him could have put the Senate into the hands of a far more conservative Republican majority.
There were plenty of sharp elbows in the race.
Brown has criticized Warren’s claim of Native American heritage, charging that she used the claim to help secure her post at Harvard Law School, something Warren and those who hired her have denied.
But Warren’s inability to provide any documentation of Native American ancestry, and her decision to identify herself as a minority in law school directories from 1986 to 1995, was one of the most serious stumbles of her campaign. Warren said she learned of her family ties to Cherokee and Delaware tribes from stories her parents told her.
In their first debate, Brown chastised Warren saying she “checked the box claiming she is Native American, and clearly she is not.”
The issue later backfired on Brown when some of his staffers were caught on video doing a “tomahawk chop” and shouting war whoops designed to mock Warren as Brown spoke at a campaign rally.
Brown said he condemned the behavior.
Warren shot back, charging Brown with holding tax cuts for middle class families “hostage” to cuts for “millionaires and billionaires” and painting him as a danger to women’s rights.
A Brown victory would have made him the first Massachusetts Republican to win a full six-year Senate term since former Sen. Edward Brooke won reelection in 1972.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)