By Nick Carey
COLUMBUS (Reuters) - Ohio's liberal Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown was re-elected on Tuesday, beating a young Republican challenger in one of the most expensive Senate campaigns in the country.
The race had drawn just over $36 million in outside money, according to federal filings.
Republicans had hoped the challenger Josh Mandel, 35, the state treasurer, would be able to defeat the Democratic incumbent.
But Brown was a strong supporter of President Barack Obama's bailout of the auto industry, which is popular in Ohio. The state has the second largest auto industry presence after Michigan, supporting an estimated 850,000 jobs, or one in eight jobs in the state.
Recent polls showed Mandel gaining ground but still an average of more than 5 percentage points behind Brown, 59, a gravelly voiced senator first elected in 2006 and who had strong union backing.
Mandel, a Marine veteran who began his Senate run three months after taking office as treasurer in 2011, had strong conservative backing for his run.
Fred Costa, 79, an independent in Cincinnati who voted for Mitt Romney, said that despite misgivings about Brown, he voted for the incumbent because Mandel should have stuck to doing the job of state treasurer.
"Sherrod Brown is a little too much of a yes-man to President Obama, but he's much better than the alternative," Costa said.
(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Greg McCune and Chizu Nomiyama)