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‘I’m not going away’: Claire McCaskill addresses supporters after loss in Missouri
Sen. Claire McCaskill, joined by family members, addresses supporters after losing the Senate race in St. Louis, MO on November 6, 2018. (Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

ST. LOUIS — Sen. Claire McCaskill promised supporters she is “not going away” after losing to Missouri’s Republican attorney general, Josh Hawley, in the U.S. Senate race.

“Obviously we fell short, and that’s disappointing,” McCaskill told a crowd of supporters inside a Marriott hotel in downtown St. Louis. “The people of Missouri allowed me, beginning when I was 28 years old, to serve the public. … It has been such an honor.”

McCaskill, 65, left open what she plans to do, only saying that she “will continue to serve.” McCaskill, who has sought to be a centrist and aligned herself with President Trump on issues like border security, also hinted that she will be more outspoken.

“I know my mouth gets me in trouble a lot. … Believe it or not, I really have to be kind of careful. Not anymore,” she said as the crowd’s cheers grew louder.

McCaskill’s loss after a contentious battle is a testament to Trump’s influence in Missouri, which was once a swing state but has turned increasingly red in the past decade. Trump won Missouri by nearly 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential elections. He campaigned here twice in the past week for Hawley, who has aligned himself squarely with Trump and lavishly praised the president.

Hawley, who was a toddler when McCaskill became a politician in 1982, will be the country’s youngest U.S. senator at 39.

McCaskill first entered politics as a state legislator. She was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, before Missouri became a deep-red state. The political veteran who’s credited for her savviness and plain-spokenness was reelected in 2012, after she helped boost Todd Akin, whom she viewed as the weaker opponent, in the GOP primary. Akin helped hand McCaskill a victory after he said that “legitimate rape” rarely caused pregnancy.

She spoke only for a few minutes as family members surrounded her onstage. Many supporters cheered; others cried.

Harper Lane, 20, said she was optimistic that McCaskill would win. Before Hawley was declared the winner, the political science major at Washington University in St. Louis sat on the floor, her hands crossed in front of her face, as she watched the election results on a giant screen.

“After canvassing all around St. Louis, I had really high hopes for Claire. I talked to people who said they wanted Claire to be their senator,” said Lane, a field intern who had knocked on about 3,000 doors since August. “It’s really confusing and, obviously, very disappointing.”

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Democrats took the House, Republicans held the Senate, and key races around the country were still too close to call.

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