State Sen. Deb Fischer (R) won the Nebraska Senate race Tuesday and will succeed retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in the upper chamber. Fischer defeated Democrat Bob Kerrey, a former Cornhusker State senator and governor. 

(Nati Harnik/Associated Press)

Fischer led Kerrey 58 percent to 42 percent, with 70 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press has called the race for her. 

Fischer, once a little-known state legislator, won the three-way Republican primary in an upset this year, defeating better-known and better-funded candidates. 

Fischer led Kerrey comfortably for much of the general election campaign, polling showed. While the contest appeared to tighten toward the end, the GOP tilt of the state helped propel the Republican across the finish line. 

Kerrey left the Senate in 2001, though he remains well-known in Nebraska. He had spent the last decade living in New York City, something Republicans often reminded voters about in campaign advertisements. 

Nelson announced his intention to retire in late 2011. He would have been among the most vulnerable senators up for reelection this cycle had he decided to pursue another term.