COLUMBUS — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown beat back a bitter, extremely expensive campaign to oust him, a scene repeated in a number of states Tuesday night as Republicans were denied control of the upper chamber of Congress.
Josh Mandel, a rapidly rising star in GOP circles after capturing the Ohio Treasurer’s office in his first statewide run in 2010, came up short despite tens of millions spent by out-of-state, third-party entities to boost his name and trounce the unabashedly liberal Democratic incumbent.
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The Brown campaign estimated spending against the senator at about $40 million.
With 88 percent of the unofficial vote reported, Mr. Brown had 50 percent to Mr. Mandel’s 45 percent and independent Scott Rupert's 5 percent.
“Today in Ohio, in the middle of America, the middle class won — again,” Mr. Brown, his voice even raspier than normal, told the crowd in his victory speech at the Ohio Democratic Party celebration in Columbus.
“We fought back against secretive out-of-state forces that wanted to impose their will upon our great state, but that’s nothing new,” he said. “Citizens United might be a new name dressed up in an expensive 21st century suit, but it’s an old story where a few people, a few very, very rich people, wanted to rig the system for themselves.”
His voice was so hoarse that he had to turn the microphone over to his wife, Connie Schultz, who read the rest of his speech.
She said the race was about the resurgence of American manufacturing, specifically mentioning Jeep and the fact that it is built in Toledo, an apparent reference to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s ads suggesting that production could be moved to China.
Before yielding the microphone, Mr. Brown said the middle-class is not just about economics.
“It’s the values we share, the principles we believe in, the opportunities we create for our children, the hard work we do everyday,” he said. “It’s the businesses we build.”
In conceding the race at the Republican gathering nearby, Mr. Mandel said he couldn’t think of anything more he could have done.
"I’m proud of the effort we put forth, and I believe we put forth everything we could in sweat, honor, and integrity,” he said. “I’d also like to tell everyone here that this isn’t the end of the fight. This is the beginning of the fight.”
Mr. Mandel said his campaign focused on issues that matter to families and people hoping for economic recovery across Ohio.
“Those issues won’t fade unless changes are made across the state and the country,” he said. “We believed in something greater than our own self-interest and we believed in issues that affect regular families around this state.”
Ohioans chose to send Mr. Brown, 59, a former northeast Ohio congressman and Ohio secretary of state, back to Washington for a second six-year term, despite Mr. Mandel’s argument that the only way to change Washington was to change who voters send there.
“Many Democrats looked at Ohio as something of a firewall, that if everything else went wrong they would hold that 51st or 52nd seat….,” said John Green, director of the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics. “But the race turned out to be a lot more competitive than anticipated. Given the nature of the presidential in Ohio, the Senate race was likely to get closer as we got closer to Election Day. This wasn’t going to be a landslide.”
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Mr. Mandel, 35, is a former Marine reservist who served two tours of duty in Iraq while simultaneously serving in the Ohio House. He will now turn his attention back to the state treasurer’s job that voters elected him to in 2010.
He portrayed Mr. Brown as siding too often with President Obama, cast a deciding vote for the President’s controversial health-care law, and whose policies led to increased national debt. Mr. Mandel labeled his opponent “the bailout senator” for his support of the taxpayer bailout of the auto industry and troubled banks.
Mr. Brown and his supporters countered by accusing Mr. Mandel of shirking his duties as a newly elected treasurer to run for the Senate and surrendering his right to think for himself by signing an anti-tax pledge.
Republican Gov. John Kasich congratulated Mr. Brown while praising Mr. Mandel.
“Ohio and the nation are facing some very tough problems on the deficit, the debt and the economy, and it’s my hope that we can stand down from partisan conflict and begin working together so we can tear down the barriers to growth that are holding Ohio and the country back,” he said.
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