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Democrats keep large majority in state Senate

Democrats retained their overwhelming majority in the Massachusetts state Senate, leading in most contested races including the hard-fought battle for the seat held by Senate President Therese Murray, who fended off a challenge brought by the Republican who nearly beat her two years ago.

“This is a big red district and I’m the only Democrat ever elected here,” said Murray, who defeated her opponent, Thomas F. Keyes, by a wide margin. Two years ago, Keyes won nearly half of the vote. “Republicans and unenrolleds came out and voted for me. It makes me feel that people appreciate the job I’m doing and I appreciate their vote.”

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Democrats also won the races to succeed three Democratic senators who decided not to seek reelection: Steven Baddour of Methuen; Frederick E. Berry of Peabody and Susan Fargo of Lincoln.

The only Republican senator to face an opponent was well ahead in early returns — Robert Hedlund of Weymouth.

In Fargo’s former district, former Democratic state senator Michael J. Barrett of Lexington, made a political comeback, claiming victory before 9 p.m. According to his campaign, he beat Chelmsford Republican Sandi Martinez by a wide margin.

“I feel the work ethic kicking in. It’s not elation, it’s kind of a sober sense of responsibility,” he said. “I’ve got to deliver, the state has to deliver — the problems seem huge, some of the environmental issues, some of the job creation challenges seem enormous. I’m not going to be celebrating, I’m going to be thinking.”

Barrett said the experience he brought from having already served in the Senate was a factor with voters. And he said social issues also played a role, citing his support for abortion rights and Martinez’s opposition to them.

Barrett, then of Cambridge, served four terms in the Senate before leaving in 1995 following an unsuccessful bid for governor. He beat four other candidates in the Democratic primary, including Concord resident Joe Kearns Goodwin, the son of presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and presidential adviser Richard Goodwin.

Martinez did not concede, saying the only results she had seen were three precincts in Chelmsford. “I have not seen the results of any other towns.”

Democrat Joan B. Lovely of Salem declared victory a little after 9 p.m. based on results that showed her beating Richard A. Jolitz, a Republican from Beverly, by a wide margin in the race for the seat held by Berry, the Senate majority leader, for 30 years.

It was the first open seat in decades in the district made up of Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Salem, and Topsfield. Lovely was viewed as the favorite after winning a four-way Democratic primary .

“I feel elated. I’m absolutely so grateful for all the support,” she said. “We started this campaign back in January. We started knocking on doors in March and we put in the work. It was a real grass-roots effort. I’m just so grateful to the voters for seeing how hard I worked and how I am going to work when I get into office.”

The most heavily contested Senate race was in the Merrimack Valley, where Kathleen O’Connor Ives, a Democratic Newburyport city councilor, defeated three candidates to succeed Baddour, who resigned in April to become a partner of a private law firm.

Ives beat Shaun A. Toohey, a Republican Haverhill School Committee member, and unenrolled candidates James Kelcourse is an Amesbury city councilor, and Paul A. Magliocchetti,

Of 200 legislative seats, 75 were being contested. Twelve seats were vacant — the officeholders either left, ran for another office or withdrew. One new district was created in last year’s redistricting for residents of Lawrence and Andover.

Several races were rematches between bitter rivals including two races in the House, where incumbents were facing challenges from the candidates they defeated two years ago.

Democrats, who had hoped that high turnout would translate into victory in the legislative seats, targeted several Republicans, who had won seats in 2010 in a wave of voter dissatisfaction.

In Marlborough, former state representative Danielle W. Gregoire beat freshman Republican representative Steven L. Levy, who defeated her two years ago.

“It feels awesome. I couldn’t have done it without all the help I got,” said Gregoire. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s amazing.”

Levy thanked his supporters and said he would take some time to decide what to do next.

“It was a hard fought race on both sides, and the voters have spoken,” he said. “ It’s always tough for a Republican to win in a presidential election year.”

He said he has called and congratulated Gregoire.

In Andover, Republican Representative James Lyons fought back a challenge from Barbara L’Italien, the woman he unseated in 2010. L’Italien, a Democrat, served in the House for eight years before her defeat in 2010 . After losing, she worked briefly for State Treasurer Steven Grossman. Lyons was the sole legislator to vote against the budget in 2011.

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