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Ron Johnson Wins Contentious Wisconsin US Senate Re-Match

Incumbent Johnson Defeats Democrat Russ Feingold In Tight Race Following Johnson's 2010 Victory

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Incumbent Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has pulled off an upset of former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold to retain his seat in the U.S. Senate for another six years.

Despite Feingold consistently leading in the polls, Johnson was declared the winner of the seat with about 52 percent of the vote to Feingold’s 45 percent Tuesday night, with about 75 percent of precincts reporting.

Johnson addressed supporters at a convention center in Oshkosh, thanking his family, staff and volunteers. He said this will be his last term as senator, and he wants to focus on bringing people together.

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“So, I approach the next six years with a seriousness of purpose,” he said. “We’ve got to put America on the right path, and the way we’re going to do it, the way we’re going to do it, is we’re gonna be concentrating on the areas of agreement.”

Later, Johnson told a group of reporters his top priorities are the economy and security issues.

He said he’ll with work with the next president to reduce regulations on industry. He also said he’s looking forward to confirming justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’ve got to make sure the American economy recognizes its full potential, that’s the No. 1 component of a solution,” Johnson said. “You do that by reducing the regulatory burden, coming up with a competitive tax system, utilizing your energy resources, keep(ing) our energy prices low. That’ll heal our economy, which will allow us to strengthen our military, defeat ISIS, and secure our border,” he said, referring to the Islamic State terrorist group.

Feingold conceded the race at about 10:30 p.m. at a rally in Middleton.

“We gave it everything we had,” Feingold said in a brief address to supporters. “Obviously, something is happening in this country tonight. I don’t understand it completely, I don’t think anybody does.”

Feingold urged his supporters to help “heal the pain in this country.”

“This could be one of the most challenging times in the history of our country,” Feingold said.

Feingold announced his campaign to return to the U.S. Senate in May 2015. The former Democratic senator, who was unseated by Johnson in 2010, consistently led polls this election cycle.

However, Feingold’s lead fell to just 1 percent in Marquette University Law School’s final survey before the Nov. 8 election.

House Speaker Paul Ryan congratulated Johnson in a statement Ryan tweeted Tuesday night.

“Ron is a man of integrity. I’ve seen that up close over the last six years, and I am just glad the rest of Wisconsin realized that tonight. He will be a great representative for our state, and I look forward to working with him in the next Congress,” Ryan’s tweet read.

During the campaign, Johnson consistently painted Feingold, who served in the Senate from 1993 to 2011, as a “career politician.”

Feingold hit back, saying Johnson is out of touch with middle and working class interests and would vote with big business at the expense of regular Wisconsinites.

Major political issues in the campaign included Feingold’s call for Johnson to sign his “Badger Pledge,” which would have barred so-called “dark money” groups from spending on the race. Johnson refused.

Johnson hit Feingold frequently on his political action committee, Progressives United. Johnson called the committee a “slush fund” and “shadow campaign” for Feingold and his staffers after the former senator was unseated in 2010.

Discussion of the committee hit a high when it was revealed it only spent about 5 percent of its fundraising haul to support candidates.

Later on in the campaign, Feingold consistently called on Johnson to revoke his support for Donald Trump, the 2016 GOP presidential nominee, particularly after a video surfaced in which Trump bragged about groping women. Johnson denounced Trump’s actions, but continued to support him.

The candidates’ policy views often fell along party lines, with Feingold calling for improvements to the Affordable Care Act, while Johnson urged repealing it. The two also disagreed on raising the minimum wage, climate change policies and immigration reform.

Before the president-elect was announced, Johnson said he’ll with work with the next president to reduce regulations on industry.

The race was followed closely across the United States and was seen as crucial in the Democrats’ attempts to regain majority control of the Senate.

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 4:43 a.m. Wednesday with additional reporting from WPR.