BOSTON — In an epic upset in liberal Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to win the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy for nearly half a century, leaving President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in doubt and marring the end of his first year in office.
Addressing an exuberant victory celebration Tuesday night, Brown declared he was "ready to go to Washington without delay" as the crowd chanted, "Seat him now." Democrats indicated they would, deflating a budding controversy over whether they would try to block Brown long enough to complete congressional passage of the health care plan he has promised to oppose.
"The people of Massachusetts have spoken. We welcome Scott Brown to the Senate and will move to seat him as soon as the proper paperwork has been received," said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said he would notify the Senate today that Brown had been elected.
The loss by the once-favored Democrat Martha Coakley in the Democratic stronghold was a stunning embarrassment for the White House after Obama rushed to Boston on Sunday to try to save the foundering candidate.
Her defeat on Tuesday signaled big political problems for the president's party this fall when House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates are on the ballot nationwide.
Brown's victory was the third major loss for Democrats in statewide elections since Obama became president. Republicans won governors' seats in Virginia and New Jersey in November.
"I have no interest in sugarcoating what happened in Massachusetts," said Sen. Robert Menendez, the head of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee. "There is a lot of anxiety in the country right now. Americans are understandably impatient."
Brown will become the 41st Republican in the 100-member Senate, which could allow the GOP to block the president's health care legislation. Democrats needed Coakley to win for a 60th vote to thwart Republican filibusters. The trouble may go deeper: Democratic lawmakers could read the results as a vote against Obama's broader agenda, weakening their support for the president. And the results could scare some Democrats from seeking office this fall.
The Republican will finish Kennedy's unexpired term, facing re-election in 2012.
Brown led by 52 percent to 47 percent with all but 3 percent of precincts counted. Turnout was exceptional for a special election in January, with light snow reported in parts of the state. More voters showed up at the polls Tuesday than in any nonpresidential general election in Massachusetts since 1990.
Brown will be the first Republican senator from Massachusetts in 30 years.