The end of a draining election night brought two more surprising developments, as Republican Mark Kirk was elected to President Obama’s former Senate seat in Illinois and Democrat Michael Bennet won the seat in Colorado.
Kirk won in a narrow 48-46 vote, in a state that typically votes Democratic, defeating opponent and Illinois treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. “A tsunami just hit the heartland,” Kirk said in his victory speech Tuesday night.
The campaign for the seat proved to be a challenging fight for both candidates, as Kirk was forced to apologize for embellishing his military record, and Giannoulias faced accusations that his father’s bank had granted loans to the Chicago mob.
Until the last minute, the race for Obama’s seat looked like a tossup, and both candidates were betting on victory. “Losing is not easy. Losing is not something you expect, which is probably why I didn’t write a speech,” Giannoulias said.
Incumbent Michael Bennet won over Republican Ken Buck with 47.5-47 percent, giving hope to Democrats who lost six Senate seats Tuesday night and are still awaiting results in Alaska, where Republican Lisa Murkowski is in the lead with her write-in campaign, and Washington state, where Democrat Patty Murray is currently ahead.
With both Kirk and Bennet winning in areas that tend to vote against their respective parties, Obama stated at a press conference, “Some election nights are exhilarating. Some are humbling.”
Obama also reminded the audience that “the competition” is not meant to be between parties, but between America and its economic rivals around the world. “With so much at stake, the American people don’t want us to spend the next two years re-fighting the battles of the last two,” he said.
Asked whether he thought the Republican takeover of the House demonstrated a rejection of his agenda, Obama said that voters may have seen the bank bailout and the recovery package as “an agenda as opposed to a response to an emergency.”
“We were in such a hurry to get things done that we didn’t change how things got done.”