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November 07. 2012 3:02AM

U.S. Senate: Murphy wins in Connecticut, King takes Maine seat

HARTFORD, Conn. - After Connecticut's most expensive and bitterest political campaign, voters on Tuesday chose Democrat Chris Murphy as the state's newest U.S. senator, once again rejecting multimillionaire former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, the Republican nominee.

McMahon sunk nearly $44 million of her vast fortune in her quest to win the open seat _ on top of the $50 million she spent on her unsuccessful 2010 Senate bid _ but all that money was unable to overcome the structural disadvantage faced by Republican candidates in deep-blue Connecticut.

The race will go down as the costliest campaign in the state's history. In addition to McMahon's hefty investment, Murphy raised about $10 million and outside groups flooded the state with an addition $10 million. Much of that money was spent by labor unions, abortion-rights advocates and national Democratic groups who backed Murphy, but McMahon also benefited from ads bankrolled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other conservative groups.

The campaign derived much of its intensity from the fact that it was one of just a few that could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. It brought a string of high-profile surrogates to Connecticut, including former President Bill Clinton for Murphy and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for McMahon.

Murphy also got a boost from the highest profile Democratic surrogate: President Barack Obama, who appeared in a television ad endorsing Murphy.

The son of a lawyer and a public school teacher, Murphy, 39, grew up in Wethersfield and earned a law degree from the University of Connecticut. He made his first run for public office in 1997, winning a seat on the Southington planning and zoning commission, and continued to ascend the political ladder. He was elected to Congress from the state's 5th District in 2006, unseating 12-term incumbent Nancy Johnson.

In Maine

Former Maine Gov. Angus King won a three-way contest on Tuesday for the Senate seat that Republican Olympia Snowe is vacating after a race in which he ran as an Independent and promised to be a voice of moderation in a polarized Congress.

King, a soft-spoken, motorcycle-riding resident of coastal Brunswick, Maine, is known as fiscally conservative but socially liberal, a common combination in northern New England.

A key question is whether King will caucus with Democrats or Republicans in the U.S. Senate. He refused to say during the campaign although most political analysts assume he will caucus with Democrats.

The two independents in the current Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, both caucused with Democrats.

King beat Democratic state senator Cynthia Dill and Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers to claim the seat.

King's chance for the Senate opened up in February when Snowe said she would be retiring from office after 18 years in the Senate, having tired of what she described in March as "dysfunction and political paralysis" in Washington.

King, who served as Maine's governor from 1995 through 2003, cited Snowe's frustration with partisan gridlock in Washington as motivating his run as an independent.

Snowe was known as a centrist who often broke with her party, and King's election could hold off a Republican effort to capture a majority in the upper chamber of Congress.

Indeed, the national Democratic Party opted not to support Dill, figuring that King had a better chance of defeating Summers.several times over the past two decades.

For much of the fall, polls projected a tight race. An August Quinnipiac University survey showed McMahon holding a three-point lead; by mid-September, the candidates were essentially tied.

Then came a series of televised debates, where Murphy was seen as more in command of the issues, and matters of personal character took a back seat.


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