Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand '88, D-N.Y., and former Democratic Maine Gov. Angus King '66, now an independent, won their respective races for Senate, while alumni Wendy Long '82 and John MacGovern '80 lost their Senatorial bids. Gillibrand defeated Long decisively in New York; King easily defeated his opponents and incumbent Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., beat MacGovern for the junior Senate seat in Vermont by a wide margin.
All three races were called soon after the polls closed, with King's easy win in Maine marking the only unexpected result, according to government professor Russell Muirhead.
"I thought it might be closer in Maine, but King ran away with it in the end," Muirhead said.
Julia Isaacson '15, who worked for the King campaign, said that while the result was slightly surprising, she and her team expected the win due to the results of exit polls. King carried a majority of counties in the state as of press time.
"I think Mainers knew that he was a proven leader," she said. "He's a good listener and very likeable. He spent a lot of time in the field getting to know people and their problems."
Isaacson said she and the other interns often questioned how King will caucus while on the campaign trail. Although Isaacson said she would like King to caucus with the Democrats, King has said he will evaluate issues individually rather than voting along party lines.
Independent members of Congress often struggle to break into the established two-party system.
"I think it's reflective of the way Maine is thinking about not just this election but politics in general," Taylor Watson '16, who also worked on King's campaign, said. "In Maine, people are thinking more about fixing how the current system works."
Watson said he hopes King will side with Republicans in the Senate to set a tone of bipartisanship.
Muirhead said he expected the vote to prove closer given that Cynthia Dill, the Democratic candidate, could have taken votes away from King.
It is likely that King will caucus with the Democrats, according to Muirhead. "He might be attracted to a moderate Republican Party, but that's not today's Republican Party," he said. "The difference between his ideas and the Democrats is much less than the difference between his ideas and the Republicans."
The easy victories celebrated by Gillibrand and Sanders were less notable than King's decisive win, according to Muirhead.
"Gillibrand had pretty much a for-show' opponent, especially at the end of the race, and Sanders would have had to self-destruct to lose in Vermont," he said. "Plus, Gillibrand and Sanders are incumbents and the advantages that gives them are really hard to overcome."
New York residents Mason Cole '13 and Mark Andriola '14 said that Gillibrand's large win was to be expected given that her liberal views are best aligned with the opinions of state residents.
"If you're a Democratic candidate, you're going to win New York," Andriola said.
Cole, the president of the College Democrats, said that the election result says more about Gillibrand's work in New York than it does about Long's candidacy, citing Gillibrand's work on issues such as health care for 9/11 first responders, equal rights for women and support for the LGBT community as reasons for her reelection.
"[Gillibrand] went from being relatively unknown to a major player in national politics because of her care about New Yorkers and the issues that matter to them," he said.
Muirhead said he sees Gillibrand's win as a starting point for a larger political career, including a potential run for president in 2016 or 2020.
"I think she'll be on any Democratic candidate's short list for [vice president] or maybe even president, but it'll depend on the context," he said. "The senator from New York is a platform to larger office, especially because it gives you the opportunity to help a lot of people on a national stage."
Ashley See contributed reporting to this article.