In one of the most expensive, closely watched races in Michigan, state Senator Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) defeated one-term Republican incumbent Tim Walberg of Tipton for a seat in the U.S. Houses of Representatives in Michigan’s 7th District Tuesday.

Early precinct results kept the candidates deadlocked well into the night. Schauer declared victory just past 1 a.m. during his election party in Battle Creek.Walberg had yet to concede the race early this morning.

Schauer had a 4,365-vote lead as of 3 a.m. this morning, with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

Edging out a win with 51 percent of the vote in 2006, Walberg’s earlier narrow victory in the district that includes Jackson, Calhoun and parts of Washtenaw County attracted attention from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and made his seat a primary target for the 2008 election cycle.

Beginning with four candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the 7th District this year, Schauer secured the Party nod after an August primary race against Democratic opponent Sharon Renier, who nearly defeated Walberg in the 2006 general election.

Topping out at nearly $3.5 million spent between the candidates, the race proved to be one of most contentious in the state. Schauer campaigned throughout the district until well after polls closed on Tuesday night, arriving late to his own victory party.

“We knew it was going to be a tough fight going in and we had a plan that we executed just about as well as we could,” said Zach Pohl, Schauer’s communications advisor.

With an exhaustive final push and a lead going into Tuesday’s election, Pohl said Schauer’s run for the House seat “left it all on the campaign trail.”

Raising more than $1.9 million, Schauer outspent Walberg by nearly $300,000 according to recent campaign finance reports and received strong support from the DCCC throughout his campaign. His efforts were matched by an aggressive run from Walberg, who was largely backed by the Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group that helped him defeat Republican incumbent Joe Schwarz in the 2006 primary and eventually go on to secure the 7th District seat.

As Democratic Minority Leader in the State Senate, Schauer currently represents Michigan’s 19th District and served three terms in the State House of Representatives starting in 1996. Prior to his time in Lansing, Schauer was involved in local politics and served on the Battle Creek City Commission, part of the district he’ll represent in the U.S. House.

Running aggressive attack ads comparing Schauer to filmmaker Michael Moore, citing his “radical liberal views,” in the weeks preceding the election, Walberg’s efforts came up short at the polls on Tuesday. The one-term Republican was criticized throughout his campaign for earlier statements made in support of drilling for oil in the Great Lakes and comparing the city of Detroit to the situation in Iraq during his first term in the House.

With a campaign centered on fixing state’s economy, Schauer’s efforts focused largely on the job market for Michigan workers, promising “green” job creation, a renegotiation of trade agreements that have negatively impacted the state’s economy and education programs for Michigan workers who have lost their jobs to global competition.

“The most important job we have right now is turning our country around and turning Michigan around,” Schauer said to a crowd of his supporters.

A proponent of expanding Pell grants to help students pay for college, Schauer also promised to place greater emphasis on higher education to help retain recent graduates and improve Michigan’s long-term economic outlook.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to fix this country and I’m ready to get to work with Barack Obama,” Schauer said. “This has been a great night for a lot of Democrats and I am so proud of this country.”

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