Harvard University law professor Elizabeth Warren, gaining back a seat that Democrats held held for decades with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, has unseated Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in a closely contested race that had seen both candidates leading in polls even into the final week.
With some 860 of the state’s 2,172 precincts reporting Tuesday night, NBC, CBS and the Associated Press were projecting a Warren victory, with 53.3 percent of the vote to Brown’s 46.7 percent -- or by 850,354 votes to Brown’s 745,582.
Warren’s projected victory include her carrying of Gloucester, with 8,037 votes in the city to Brown’s 7,379. Brown, who had carried Essex and Manchester but lost Gloucester and Rockpot to Attorney General Martha Coakley in his special election win in January 2010, had spent significant time in Gloucester and had made a name for himself in supporting NOAA regulatory and enforcement reforms for Gloucester’s and other Massachusetts fishermen.
But Warren also made a number of visits to Gloucester, Beverly and other North Shore communities in her push for the seat, with help on the ground on Cape Ann from state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who accompanied her on a number of Gloucester campaign trail visits.
Brown, who won a 2010 special election to succeed the late Democrat Edward Kennedy, waited in line with his family at Wrentham Middle School before voting. Warren, who will become Massachusetts’ first-ever female U.S. senator, was accompanied by her husband and more than a dozen other family members when she voted at the Graham Parks School in Cambridge.
Both candidates spent the rest of the day visiting other polling places and phone banks before settling in to wait for results. That hard-fought race was evident as some independent voters left polls, reporting difficulty choosing candidates.
In Wayland, a western suburb of Boston, 53-year-old Bob Virzi said he picked Warren for the Senate.
‘‘It was a tough call,’’ he said. ‘‘I just feel like we can’t let the Senate go into Republican control. I like Scott Brown, but if you look at his record, it’s not as clear-cut as it should be.’’
Virzi, an unaffiliated voter who describes himself as a semi-retired consultant, also voted for Obama, saying the economy was much better off than when he took office.
Lynda Connell, 50, a registered nurse from Whitman, said she voted for Brown because she believes he is willing to work with Republicans and Democrats.
‘‘He’s very bipartisan, and he’s voted on the issues, not just by the party,’’ Connell said.
Brown and Warren had sparred over a variety of issues in the spotlight this campaign season, with Warren painting Brown as anti-woman and the junior senator characterizing his competitor as “anti-business.”
A majority of the polls released over the closing months of the race had showed Warren edging Brown by modest margins, but all indicated the race would be close and come down to a small margin.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said mostly anecdotal reports around the state pointed to a strong turnout, with long lines at some polling places.
In Boston, more than 55 percent of registered voters had cast ballots by 6 p.m., which was higher than the 52.5 percent who had voted in Boston by that same time in the 2008 election.