MANCHESTER, N.H. — Democrat Jeanne Shaheen bested Republican Scott Brown in their closely fought race in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, ending his attempt at a US Senate comeback in his new home state.
Just before midnight, Brown told supporters that he had come up short and conceded the race to Shaheen.
“I accept the decision of the voters,” said Brown, surrounded by family.
It was Brown’s second loss in his second state since 2012, and will likely cast the once-rising GOP star into the political wilderness.
In a brief, emotional speech, Shaheen said, “Tonight the people of New Hampshire chose to put New Hampshire first.”
Brown, who previously represented Massachusetts in the Senate, fell short in his bid to ride a wave of dissatisfaction with Washington and unseat a relatively popular incumbent. Shaheen’s win bucked a trend that saw Republicans reclaim control of the US Senate.
Brown drove his signature GMC pickup truck to victory in 2010 with his upset win to fill the seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy, but lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012.
Early Wednesday morning, Shaheen led with 51.3 percent of the vote to Brown’s 48.7 percent, with 85 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press.
Brown was magnanimous in his concession speech, expressed happiness at the GOP winning control of the chamber in which he once served, and was buoyed by supporters who cheered, “Go, Scott, Go!”
“I feel like a lucky man to live in this great state and call it home,” he said.
Shaheen told supporters “That you stood by me through thick and thin means more than you will ever know.”
As she thanked her family, her voice wavered.
The ebullient crowd broke out from time to time in chants of “We believe in Jeanne Shaheen.”
Early in the evening after news organizations called the race for Shaheen, the crowd cheered at her victory party.
“So happy,” Jen Beaudoin, 31, of Concord, N.H., gushed as she wiped away tears of joy. “I was a little nervous because midterm election turnout can be so bad, but we got out the vote.”
Beaudoin had been out all day canvassing neighborhoods and making phone calls to encourage residents to vote.
David Starr, a lawyer and a longtime Shaheen supporter, said he felt fantastic.
“Jeanne Shaheen represents what New Hampshire is all about,” he said.
Meanwhile, the mood at the Brown headquarters ricocheted from sadness as the race was called against them to joy as subsequent vote totals showed a closer race, to stoicism as TV networks reported Brown’s concession.
Brown formally launched his campaign in April and focused squarely on national and international issues, from immigration to the Islamic State militant group. He worked to tie Shaheen to President Obama, who polls have found has grown increasingly unpopular in the state.
And Brown hit the campaign trail with gusto, making hundreds of stops across New Hampshire.
At most of them, he worked to position himself as an agent of change, aiming to convince voters that if they were frustrated with Washington’s dysfunction and Obama’s second term, they should vote for him.
From Concord to Keene, he rarely gave a speech without mentioning that Shaheen votes with the president “99 percent of the time,” an effort to make the president and state’s senior senator the same in voters’ minds.
Shaheen, a former governor and state senator, ran an intensely localized race this year focused on her accomplishments at a granular level.
She emphasized the specific actions she has taken to help the Granite State — working to protect this shipyard, build that bridge, get a bill passed that helped this New Hampshire business.
And she went on the attack against Brown, framing him as someone whose values — on issues from women’s rights to job creation — were out of sync with the Granite State.
Though Shaheen did not often directly knock Brown moving his primary residence to his vacation home in Rye, N.H., just last year, she frequently spoke about it implicitly.
A former political operative, Shaheen tried to define Brown as driven by pure ambition and someone who would look out for well-monied interests, rather than average folks.
National Republicans had hoped Brown, a prolific fund-raiser, would enter the race. And when he did, it was immediately seen as a potentially competitive contest. As polling found the race narrowing, third party groups took increasing notice.
Millions of dollars of outside money poured into the small state, blanketing the airwaves with many negative ads. Some cast Shaheen as an unthinking Obama automaton; others cast Brown as a self-interested carpetbagger.
Analysts saw the ads from Democratic-aligned groups as being particularly damaging to Brown. Polls found more likely voters had an unfavorable opinion of him than a favorable one.
Sipping a beer a Brown’s election night party in Manchester, Norman Morais, a Manchester Republican in his 70s, mulled the barrage of TV spots.
Brown has “taken some awful hits on advertising,” he said before polls closed. “If he can emerge from that, he will have pulled bunnies out of hats.”
Morais was one of the scores of supporters at Brown’s election night headquarters.
The event space went silent as FOX News projected Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan would be reelected, beating Republican businessman Walt Havenstein.
Also on Tuesday, Republican Frank Guinta unseated US Representative Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat, in their third matchup.
With 84 percent of precincts reporting, Guinta had 51.4 percent to Shea-Porter’s 48.6 percent, according to the Associated Press.
In the state’s other congressional district, Representative Ann McLane Kuster, a Democrat, beat back a challenge from Republican Marilinda Garcia, according to the AP.
After his concession speech, Brown told reporters he would not have run a different campaign and, despite the loss, life goes on.
Asked about his political future, he said “Oh gosh, it’s too early” adding he would remain in New Hampshire.
So what will Brown do now?
“I’m going to go have a beer, and go get some rest and hit the gym tomorrow and play the guitar,” he said, “and spend some time with the family.”