HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania withstood a spending spree by coal-industry millionaire Republican Tom Smith to win a second term Tuesday in a race in which the political scion had been heavily favored.
Casey's victory also cements a seat that Democrats had counted on in the struggle for control of the U.S. Senate.
Casey, 52, of Scranton, an ally of organized labor, had been a heavy, early favorite and was way ahead in polls through August. But Smith, a tea party favorite who made a fortune in western Pennsylvania's coal-mining industry, invested more than $16 million of his own money in the race, hammering Casey for three months on TV and radio and forcing Casey to mount a strong response in the final weeks.
The race became increasingly negative in the final weeks, fought largely in TV ads.
Speaking to a boisterous crowd at a Scranton hotel, Casey thanked his supporters and said he had received a "very gracious" call from Smith to concede. He then said he would return to Washington, D.C., to help middle-class families and to work to bridge partisan divides on economic issues, taxes and spending.
"We've got a lot of work to do, but I have no doubt and I have total confidence in our ability to do that in both parties," Casey said. "But it begins tonight in the aftermath of a tough election. I'm grateful for the vote of confidence the people of Pennsylvania have given me."
In his concession speech at a downtown Pittsburgh hotel to a subdued crowd, Smith thanked Casey and called for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
"We both share a love for this country, and this state," Smith said of Casey.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Casey had 2,213,523 votes, or 55 percent, to Smith's 1,709,786 votes, or 43 percent. Libertarian Rayburn Smith took nearly 2 percent.
Although Casey had strong name recognition because he is the son of the late former Gov. Robert P. Casey, many voters were still learning the identities of the candidates in the final days before the election as the men campaigned in the shadow of the presidential race.
Counting spending by outside groups, Smith was on course to outspend Casey, $18 million to less than $9 million after July 1.