In a stunning upset that reshaped the U.S. political landscape, Republican Scott Brown won Tuesday’s special election in Massachusetts for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy.
With 99 percent of the results counted, Brown had 52 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, according to the the National Election Pool, a consortium of media organizations including CNN. Independent candidate Joseph Kennedy, a libertarian who is not related to the Kennedy political family of Massachusetts, had 1 percent.
Brown’s victory made real the once unthinkable prospect of a Republican filling the seat held by Kennedy, known as the liberal lion, for almost 47 years until his death due to brain cancer last August. Before Kennedy won the seat for the first time in 1962, his older brother John held it for nearly eight years until his election as U.S. president in 1960.
“This really does change everything, you know that?” said Mitt Romney, the former GOP governor of Massachusetts who introduced Brown at his victory rally.
Voters across Massachusetts braved winter cold and snow for an election with high stakes — the domestic agenda of President Obama, including his top domestic priority, health care reform.
Brown’s victory strips Democrats of their 60-seat Senate super-majority, needed to overcome GOP filibusters against future Senate action on a broad range of White House priorities. Senate Democrats needed all 60 votes in their caucus to pass the health care bill, and the loss of one seat now imperils generating that support again for a compromise measure worked out with the House.
“Forty one, forty one,” chanted the crowd at Brown’s rally, referring to his new status as the Senate’s 41st Republican. Brown, a state senator until now, heralded his victory as the start of more election surprises in 2010.
No Republican had won a U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts since 1972, and Democrats control the governorship, both houses of the state legislature, and the state’s entire congressional delegation.