U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. kept his seat on Tuesday with voters choosing the Democrat over a Republican challenger who spent millions of his own dollars on a hard-hitting conservative campaign.
Casey, 52, of Scranton defeated Republican Tom Smith of Armstrong County 56 percent to 42 percent, with 85 percent of precincts reporting.
Smith, 65, of Plumcreek lost despite spending at least $17 million of his money in a campaign with major television advertising.
“The job of putting this country back to work is not yet done,” Casey told his supporters late Tuesday. “As a member of the United States Senate who was just re-elected, I know that's still going to be my number one obligation.”
Casey called for national reconciliation after a tough campaign season.
“We have to come together as one country,” he said. “Because this country has been through a lot of tough times recently, but we've been through tough years before. ... At those moments we come together.”
In a statement, Tom Smith agreed that both he and Casey “care deeply” for the United States.”
“My family and I are humbled and grateful for the support of millions of Pennsylvanians. And though we fell short tonight, we will continue to advocate for the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility and individual liberty.”
Libertarian candidate Rayburn Douglas Smith, 65, of Beaver Township in Clarion County received less than 2 percent of the vote.
The race seemed to tighten in recent weeks as public polls showed Smith moving close to even with a steady barrage of campaign commercials. In the end, his financial advantage could not overcome Casey's name and reputation, political observers said.
“Tom Smith used his money and his resources to make it about as close as it could be, but in the end, without something major happening, that was a difficult path for Smith to follow,” said Christopher Borick, political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
Smith's message was too conservative, especially in Western Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia suburbs, said Jerry Shuster, a political communications professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
“As much money as (Smith) spent, and as many times as he was there, it didn't seem to make a great deal of difference,” Shuster said. “He just didn't seem to play well.”
Outside groups spent more than $2.1 million either opposing Casey or supporting Smith. That compared with $900,000 for Casey or against Smith.
Casey ran on what he said was a record of being “an independent voice for the state.”
He promised to protect American jobs and took a tough stance on stopping unfair trade practices and opposing China's currency manipulation to reduce the cost of its exports.
As the son of the late Gov. Bob Casey Sr., he benefited from popular name recognition among voters who have seen the family name on statewide ballots since the 1960s, when his father first ran unsuccessfully for governor.
Casey first won the Senate seat in 2006 by beating incumbent Republican Rick Santorum.
Senators, paid $174,000 this year, serve six-year terms.
Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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