Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was elected to her first full, six-year term Tuesday night, fending off a challenge from Republican Wendy Long.
Gillibrand was in the unusual position of facing the voters twice in two years after being tapped in 2009 to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who became secretary of state. Gillibrand won the right to finish out the final two years of Clinton's old term in 2010. This time, she ran for a new six-year term.
Gillibrand gave a somber acceptance speech focusing on the heavy toll Sandy took on New Yorkers last week and lauding the resilience of those hit the hardest.
"We are bound by something much more powerful than any storm. And while the road will be long and the road will be hard, we will rebuild better and stronger, and I will stand with you every single step of the way," Gillibrand said.
The call for Gillibrand was based on an analysis of interviews with voters as they left polling places across the state, conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research.
The former upstate congresswoman initially got a chilly reception from some fellow New York Democrats who felt she was too conservative and lacked gravity. Gillibrand has steadily built up support statewide over the past three years, in part by taking on high-profile causes dear to the left, like gay rights and women in politics.
Gillibrand spent some of the year campaigning not for herself but for other Democratic women.
Long is a New York City lawyer with experience in conservative politics who was making her first run for public office. Long served as chief counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative advocacy group, and had done press work for Republican senators.
Long won a three-way primary in June after promoting her opposition to any tax increases and same-sex marriage while supporting other conservative positions. Her general election campaign, badly outspent by the Gillibrand campaign, was notable for its attacks on the incumbent's record and blaming policies the senator backed for New York's grim economic condition.