Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts retained his seat in a crucial race for his party as it clinched control of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, with election returns showing the veteran lawmaker pulling ahead of challenger Greg Orman.
Republican Governor Sam Brownback, a former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, also won re-election despite a bruising campaign that focused on the fiscal problems that followed his tax cuts.
Orman conceded defeat in the Senate contest as Roberts led the independent businessman by 52 percent to 44 percent with more than 80 percent of the votes counted on Tuesday, securing Roberts' hold on a seat he first won in 1996.
In a victory speech, Roberts thanked Kansas voters for their support.
"We said ... the road to a Republican majority in the United States Senate led through Kansas, and we did it," Roberts said. "I don't think there is any question that the eyes of the nation were on Kansas."
Polls before the election showed Roberts, who barely won the Republican primary over a challenger backed by the conservative Tea Party movement, running neck and neck with political newcomer Orman.
"We knew that we were going to face tough competition," Orman said in a speech to supporters as he acknowledged the loss. But he hinted at a future run.
"This is not the end, it is the beginning," Orman said.
Kansas has elected only Republicans to the U.S. Senate since 1932. But Orman's candidacy soared after he painted Roberts as an out-of-touch contributor to political gridlock in Washington, and as the Democratic contender pulled out of the race in September.
Roberts countered Orman's rise in the polls by calling him a Democrat in disguise, citing his campaign contributions to top Democrats. His campaign also sent out a "voter alert" to more than 1 million Kansans on Saturday, attacking Orman for criticism he had made of former Kansas Republican Senator Bob Dole.
In the governor's race, Brownback defeated Democratic state Representative Paul Davis by 49 percent to 47 percent, according to preliminary results.
Davis' candidacy had gained support from many moderate Republicans after a drop in state revenue that coincided with steep income tax cuts engineered by Brownback. The cuts prompted Standard & Poor's to slash the Kansas bond rating in August and warn of a budget deficit next year.
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