Sen. Brown re-elected as Obama has early Ohio lead

THOMAS J. SHEERAN Associated Press Published:

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Sherrod Brown won re-election in Ohio's hotly contested U.S. Senate campaign Tuesday, and early results showed a slight lead for another Democrat in a big race, President Barack Obama.

Brown defeated GOP challenger Josh Mandel, the state treasurer, despite an onslaught of attacks from conservative outside groups.

Two first-term congressional Republicans also won re-election, and a heavily favored Democratic candidate in central Ohio captured a new U.S. House seat.

There were long lines and heavy turnout in some areas but few Election Day problems reported in the swing state after months of seemingly nonstop campaign visits and ads, much of it for the race to the White House.

With about half of the vote reported, Obama was ahead of Republican Mitt Romney by about 85,000 votes in unofficial results as the Democrat tried to carry the state a second time.

In suburban Cleveland, Collette Krantz, 82, said health care was the top issue on her mind as she voted for Obama at a college community in Berea. She wondered what to expect, especially on health care, from a Romney administration.

"I think under Romney there would be many changes," she said. "We truly don't know what the heck they are about."

Christine McCauley, a 46-year-old Democrat who voted for Romney, said she isn't satisfied with the economy.

"I still think it's stagnant," said McCauley, a stay-at-home mom from Berea. "I think it hurts household values, it hurts education, it hurts everybody more when you have people not working."

Obama's bailout of the auto industry was popular with Ohio voters, with most saying they approved of the decision. Voters looking for a strong leader and someone who shared their values went with Romney, according to preliminary exit poll results.

Matt Wieczorek, a 25-year-old elementary school science teacher who voted Tuesday morning, said he's a registered Republican but voted for Obama. He said he thinks the president is a better choice to keep education and the economy moving forward.

"We have seen growth in the economy, maybe not as fast as we want it to be, but Obama has made a difference, and I don't want to see that growth come to an end," Wieczorek said.

Turnout was expected to be crucial, with Obama looking for big totals from northeastern Ohio and the state's largest cities, and Romney hoping for blowouts in the suburbs and rural towns.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner won re-election to the U.S. House, and former Democratic state Rep. Joyce Beatty was elected in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District. Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur beat Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, the man who became known as Joe the Plumber during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Ohioans rejected the two statewide issues on the ballot.

Issue 2, which would have changed how districts are redrawn, proposed that a 12-member commission of state residents re-draw congressional and legislative maps every 10 years.

Issue 1 asked voters if they'd like an Ohio Constitution convention to make changes.

Ohioans also had three state Supreme Court justices on the ballot.

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Associated Press writers Ann Sanner, Julie Carr Smyth, John Seewer, Dan Sewell, Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.