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Maggie Hassan narrowly defeats Kelly Ayotte for New Hampshire Senate seat

By Amy R. Connolly and Stephen Feller
Maggie Hassan narrowly defeats Kelly Ayotte for New Hampshire Senate seat
Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan won a hard-fought battle against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, though the win was not enough to give Democrats a majority in the U.S. Senate. Photo courtesy Maggie Hassan for Senate

CONCORD, Calif., Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan won a hard-fought battle against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, though the victory did not tip the balance of the U.S. Senate toward Democrats after Tuesday's election.

Hassan won by less than 1,000 votes in a battle that saw Ayotte pull ahead in the final days of the New Hampshire Senate race. The victory allows Democrats to add two seats in the U.S. Senate, short of the five they needed to take the majority from Republicans.

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"We know that this election exposed very serious divisions in our country, and it's up to all of us -- elected leaders and citizens -- now to come together and focus on our common challenges and our common opportunities," Hassan said Wednesday. "Our work going forward is going to be to remember what unites us as Americans and how we can make progress together."

Ayotte, a former state attorney general first elected in 2010, has described herself as one of the most bipartisan members of the Senate, standing against her own party on issues that included Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's 2013 efforts to shut down the government in a battle over the Affordable Care Act. She rescinded her endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after an Access Hollywood interview surfaced of him speaking about women in derogatory terms. She said her renewed focus in office would be on holding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs more accountable for veterans' healthcare.

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During the campaign, Ayotte, 48, was criticized for supporting a Republican blockade on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. She was among Republicans who refused to hold hearings until after the election. She's been criticized as a lockstep Republican who was trying to walk back her record during the campaign to widen her appeal.

Hassan, a two-term governor and former state senator, ran on a platform of protecting the gains made in the state during her tenure. That included low unemployment, lower college tuitions and continuing no personal and state income taxes. Hassan, 58, was the only Democratic governor to call for a temporary ban on Syrian refugees entering the country, calling on the White House to review the vetting process. Ayotte criticized Hassan for causing gridlock in state government when she vetoed a bipartisan budget proposal earlier this year.

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