Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has held onto his seat in a bitter, polarizing recall election against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), according to the AP.

It was a rematch of sorts; Walker beat Barrett by five points in 2010. After taking office, he instituted collective bargaining reforms that sparked massive protests.

But that enthusiasm was met by passionate support for Walker, who became a hero to conservatives nationwide for taking on public employee unions and slashing his state’s budget. What began as a liberal response to the tea party has emboldened Republicans across the country.

View Photo Gallery: After a brief but bruising campaign that followed a fight over union rights and Wisconsin’s cash-strapped budget, voters in the narrowly divided state began casting ballots Tuesday on whether to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

“Tonight’s results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin,” said former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in a statement. “Tonight voters said ‘no’ to the tired, liberal ideas of yesterday, and ‘yes’ to fiscal responsibility and a new direction.”

Outside money flooded the state; in this very expensive election Republicans had the edge.Walker raised $30.5 million; Barrett raised only $3.9 million. Republicans outspent Democrats on the airwaves by about a two-to-one margin. The state GOP also dramatically expanded its turnout operation — where Democrats traditionally have the edge.

Three Republican state senators, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Jerry Petrowski, also survived recalls, as did Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. Results from two state Senate recalls are still outstanding. Democrats, who defeated two Republican state senators in recalls last summer, need one victory to win control of the state legislature's upper chamber.

Read more: Voters choose Walker over Barrett

Analysis: Why Scott Walker won