NBC is projecting that Congressman Mark Kirk has defeated his Democrat challenger, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat, taking Republican ownership of President Barack Obama's former seat.
With 95% of precincts reporting, Kirk took 48% of the vote. Kirk received 1,693,216 votes -- 84,443 more than Alexi Giannoulias.
Kirk will replace Roland Burris, who was appointed by then-Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the remainder of President Obama's term.
"Let me just say thank you, thank you everybody," Kirk said. "We are 800 miles from any ocean but a tsunami just hit the heartland!"
Kirk also won the special election to replace Burris for the remainder of his appointed term. Kirk will now have the unique opportunity to be seated in Congress when legislators return Nov. 29, a full six weeks before the rest of this election class is sworn in.
"My name is Mark Kirk and I have come to replace Roland Burris," Kirk said.
Kirk's win provides Republicans with a key symbolic victory. GOP representatives have said that a Republican Senate win in Illinois will demonstrate how even President Obama's home state has rejected his liberal agenda.
"This Senate seat has seen dark days. Blagojevich tried to sell it, democrats blocked a special election to fill it, Washington partisans threw the kitchen sink on us to hold it, but tonight the sun set on a one-party corrupt state," Kirk said. "And this Senate seat was just returned to its rightful owners, the people of Illinois."
Kirk said that, as Illinois' new senator, he pledged to oppose any non-emergency spending during the Congress' lame duck session.
In a gracious concession speech, Giannoulias asked his supporters to support Kirk.
"Sorry to keep ya'll waiting so long," Giannoulias said in his concession speech. "Let me begin by congratulating Congressman Kirk. Let's have a round of applause for Congressman Kirk."
Continuing, Giannoulias said "I think he will make a good senator, I think he will make a strong senator. Giannoulias talked over supporters who tried to interject. Giannoulias also thanked Senator Dick Durbin.
"Senator Durbin worked very hard for me, he fought for me," Giannoulias said. "I can never repay what he did for me."
Giannoulias then choked up when mentioning his parents.
"Losing is not easy, it's not something easy to do," Giannoulias said. "That's probably why I didn't write a speech." As he fought back tears, Giannoulias said losing graciously was something his parents taught him. Giannoulias also thanked his brothers.
"Without them, I never would have been a candidate for the U.S. Senate," he said.
In closing, Giannoulias asked his supporters to stay engaged. "Thank you for believing in me. Let's stick around for awhile. I've got a lot of hugs to give out."