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Former GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio re-elected to second Senate term in Florida

WASHINGTON (AP) — Marco Rubio failed in his bid to end up in the White House, but he’s still going back to Washington. Florida voters elected him to a second term in the Senate on Tuesday.

He had wavered for months before deciding to run for re-election. He beat back a challenge from Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, who has repeatedly tried to link Rubio to Donald Trump.

The two Senate candidates differed starkly on a number of issues — including guns, health care, foreign policy, economic issues and abortion. Each sought to leverage voter discontent with both the GOP and Democratic nominees.

Rubio held onto had a narrow lead in polling going into Election Day over Murphy, who was abandoned by his own party after Democratic bosses decided to pull ad money from expensive Florida and invest it in Missouri, North Carolina and Indiana, instead.

In Ohio, Republican Sen. Rob Portman has defeated former Gov. Ted Strickland in a race that once looked like one of the Democrats’ best bets to flip a Senate seat.

Portman, a former U.S. trade representative and budget director, was first elected to the Senate in 2010. He ran a strong campaign, branding Strickland early on as “Retread Ted” and tying him to Ohio’s sinking economy during Strickland’s governorship, which coincided with the national recession.

Portman kept Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at a distance leading up to Tuesday’s election. Portman didn’t campaign with Trump and withdrew his endorsement when a 2005 tape of Trump making lewd comments about kissing and groping women surfaced last month.

Portman’s TV ads touted his work to combat the heroin epidemic, including a new law Portman co-sponsored.

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Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy has won an eighth term. He’s the Senate’s longest-serving member. The 76-year-old beat back a challenge from Republican businessman Scott Milne.

Leahy was first elected in 1974 from the liberal state. He’s the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and will likely chair the panel if Democrats reclaim the majority.

He says he hopes “reasonable” Republicans in the Senate will agree to perform their constitutional duty of advice and consent on judicial nominees, including the Supreme Court.

 

In, South Carolina, Republican Sen. Tim Scott, the South’s first black senator since Reconstruction, has won his first full term.

Scott defeated Democrat Thomas Dixon, a community activist and pastor.

The Senate’s only black Republican, Scott said he would vote for Donald Trump, even as he has characterized some of Trump’s statements and actions as “disgusting,” ”indefensible” and “racially toxic.”

Scott, one of only two black senators, said on the Senate floor this summer that he has repeatedly been pulled over by law enforcement and was once even stopped by a Capitol Police officer who apparently did not believe he was a senator.

Scott, 51, was appointed to the seat in 2013 following the resignation of Sen. Jim DeMint, then won election to the final two years of that term.

 

In Kentucky, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who made an early run for the presidency, instead is heading back to Washington for a second term.

Paul defeated Democrat Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington.

Paul repeatedly clashed with Donald Trump during the GOP primary debates. He later endorsed Trump but spoke little about him while campaigning for re-election.

The candidates spent a combined $8 million on the race, a paltry sum considering the more than $47 million Kentucky’s Senate candidates spent in 2014. The Senate race has been overshadowed by the presidential race and the battle for the state House of Representatives — the only legislative chamber in the South still controlled by Democrats.

 

Control of Congress was up for grabs Tuesday as Republicans’ hopes of protecting their narrow majority in the Senate rested on a handful of states that were toss-ups until the end.

Republicans were expected to retain House control amid Democratic gains that are expected to be modest.

In North Carolina and Missouri, Democrats sought to upset entrenched GOP incumbent senators. In Democratic-leaning states like Wisconsin, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, Democrats were trying to tie their GOP opponents to Donald Trump.

Democrats needed to pick up four seats to take the Senate majority if Hillary Clinton wins the White House and can send her vice president to cast tie-breaking votes in a 50-50 Senate. They need five seats if Trump wins.

 

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