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Kirsten Gillibrand holds onto U.S. Senate seat

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), with husband Jonathan

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), with husband Jonathan and sons Henry, 4, and Theodore, 8, on stage at New York State Democratic headquarters. (Nov. 6, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who filled the seat when Hillary Rodham Clinton was picked as secretary of state, has won the seat sought by Republican contender Wendy Long.

In her victory speech, Gillibrand thanked New Yorkers from the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan, where state Democrats convened on election night, as her husband and two young sons sat nearby.

"I can't thank you enough for the honor and privilege of continuing to serve this state and to fight for New York families in the United States Senate," Gillibrand said.

She commended her opponent, saying that it was the first campaign in the state where two women ran for a U.S. Senate seat.

Gillibrand also spoke about the devastation the state had seen after Sandy, promising that New Yorkers "will rebuild better and stronger."

"Sen. Gillibrand has proven herself to be an absolute . . . force in the United States Senate," said Assemb. Keith Wright, co-chair of the New York State Democratic Party. "Kirsten has delivered by working across the aisle."

Earlier in the night, Republican party officials had said Long's campaign -- even if she lost -- will be judged as successful. In a 10 minute speech, Long conceded the race, thanking "allies in the Tea Party."

Long said, "I'm disappointed that Sen. Gillibrand never really engaged on the main issues that confront New York and Americans in this campaign." She cited the national debt, taxes and other economic factors.

"Kirsten Gillibrand is put on notice now" that she will be challenged in the future, said David Laska, a spokesman for the Republican Party of New York State.