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Democrat Leahy of Vermont Wins 7th Term in U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate's second-longest serving member is headed back to Washington.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy easily won re-election to a seventh term Tuesday, defeating GOP challenger Len Britton and five others.

Leahy, D-Vt., said he was honored to have been re-elected and believes his refusal to use attack ads against his opponents played a part in his victory.

"Naturally, I'm gratified for it. I'm extremely appreciative of my fellow Vermonters," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "When I first ran, I said if Vermonters honored me with their trust, they would humble me with the responsibility. I still feel that way today."

The 70-year-old Leahy, who was first elected in 1974, has earned a reputation as a liberal stalwart on such issues as government secrecy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and U.S. Supreme Court nominations.

He amassed more than $4 million in contributions for his campaign and barely broke a sweat fending off political newcomers Britton and independent Daniel Freilich. Also in the race were independents Stephen J. Cain and Johenry Nunes, socialist Pete Diamondstone and United States Marijuana Party candidate Cris Ericson.

He said Tuesday he knew he'd win, based on the reactions he got from voters as he campaigned around the state with his wife, Marcelle.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy has been closely involved with the most polarizing issues of the day, including the firing of U.S. attorneys, electronic eavesdropping by intelligence agencies and nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court and the nation's federal courts.

A former prosecutor, Leahy focused on agricultural issues early in his Capitol Hill career, looking out for Vermont's interests -- dairy and maple syrup production.

In 2001, he became chairman of Judiciary, where he's the ranking Democrat.

In that role, he battled with President George W. Bush's administration for eight years, afterward calling for creation of a nonpartisan "truth commission" to look into whether the administration abused its power in national security matters.

He was among Senate Democrats who subpoenaed then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey for testimony and documents about the Justice Department's legal advice to the White House on detention and interrogation policies since Sept. 11.

Since the election of President Barack Obama, Leahy has been a cheerleader for his policies and nominees -- including Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who joined the Supreme Court in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

A photography buff, Leahy carries a camera constantly and has held exhibitions for his works. His subjects have included bill-signing shots of Presidents Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush.

He's a "Batman" fan, too: In 1997, Leahy had a small part in "Batman and Robin," and in 2008, he had a cameo in "The Dark Knight," getting roughed up by Heath Ledger.