JULIE CARR SMYTH
COLUMBUS — Democrat Sherrod Brown won re-election to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday after one of the most expensive and closely watched match-ups in the country.
Despite an onslaught of attacks from conservative outside groups, Brown topped Republican challenger Josh Mandel, the state treasurer and a U.S. Marine veteran who did two tours in Iraq.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS and other outside groups spent more in Ohio than any other state, criticizing Brown’s support for President Barack Obama’s stimulus and health care overhaul.
Mandel, 35, called Brown a career politician in a race that grew increasing rancorous as Election Day approached. He sought to turn Brown’s decades in office against him, telling voters he wanted to make Washington more accountable.
Brown, 59, made the auto industry bailout a key campaign issue, highlighting Mandel’s opposition to the rescue that affected about 800,000 Ohio jobs.
Job experience was a central theme in the race. Brown accused Mandel of ignoring his duties at the state treasury, while Mandel said Brown was too entrenched and represented “everything that’s wrong with Washington.”
Brown began his political career in 1974 as the youngest state representative in Ohio history, and went on to serve as secretary of state and congressman.
His biggest obstacle was outside attacks focused on his ties to Obama’s policies, especially as they affected the nation’s fiscal health. The president’s popularity rose and fell in the closely divided battleground state ahead of Election Day — but rarely exceeded 50 percent.
Mandel was elected to his first statewide office in 2010 after stints as a student body president at Ohio State University, Cleveland-area city councilman and state legislator. His military experience factored in garnering 2008 presidential nominee John McCain’s endorsement.
But his Senate run subjected Mandel’s actions to tough scrutiny.
He faced a steady stream of criticism throughout the campaign: for hiring friends and political operatives into his state office, for being a no-show to his official state duties, and for accepting donations later targeted in an FBI probe.