LOS ANGELES (CBS 5 / AP) — The Republican tidal wave that swept the country wasn’t strong enough to defeat Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, although the liberal lion of California politics had to admit to feeling its force during a grueling campaign against former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive Carly Fiorina – who finally conceded the race Wednesday.

KNX’s Chris Sedens Reports From Los Angeles:

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Fiorina told reporters that she called Boxer Wednesday to congratulate her and wish her well. She did not take questions.

“This has been a great ride, a great adventure, a great privilege, I would not trade a single moment,” Fiorina said in conceding defeat.

Celebrating her 11th consecutive election victory, Boxer told hundreds of cheering supporters that Tuesday night’s win was a special one because of the opposition she overcame, including attack ads funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other contributors who sensed she was more vulnerable this year than ever before.

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this victory after the toughest and roughest campaign of my life,” Boxer, 69, told supporters at an election-night party in Hollywood.

With 93 percent of the state’s precincts reporting on Wednesday, Boxer had about 52 percent of the vote to Fiorina’s 42 percent.

Fiorina had used her appearance at her election-night party to hail “a fantastic sweep across the nation” that had returned control of the House of Representatives to her fellow Republicans. At the time, she had refused to concede to Boxer.

Voters in many parts of the country showed they were in a mood to hold incumbents accountable for the nation’s struggling economy. That meant Democrats more often that not took the brunt of their anger.

Boxer’s saving grace was a California electorate that included about 2.2 million more registered Democrats than Republicans.

The GOP had tried to counter that by providing Fiorina with considerable resources. Conservative business and social groups also weighed in, financing ads critical of the incumbent.

“Everything was thrown at us — including the kitchen sink and the stove and the oven. Everything, millions of dollars of negative ads from known and unknown opponents,” Boxer said.

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During the campaign, Fiorina had blamed Boxer and her fellow Democrats for failed economic policies she said had kept the country in recession. At the top of the list was the $814 billion economic stimulus legislation.

But Boxer turned the tables, saying Fiorina represented a return to Republican policies from the past that had created the recession.

She also painted Fiorina as out of step with most California voters on issues ranging from abortion to gun control.

At the polls on Tuesday, voters often sounded like the candidates had while they were on the campaign trail.

“Barbara Boxer has been there too long and hasn’t done enough for me to want to keep her there,” said Kayla Tarbet, 25, of Long Beach.

David Tapia, a television casting director from Glendale, focused on Hewlett-Packard’s expansion overseas while laying off workers in the U.S., an issue Boxer had hammered Fiorina on during the campaign.

“Sending jobs out of this country is something I feel strongly about, and it really hits the American people,” said Tapia, 37. “For some of us struggling to find employment, it’s really hard.”

Another voter, Ryan Mendoza of Los Angeles, said Boxer’s election to a fourth Senate term was a testament to her long-standing relationship with Californians.

“If a Republican couldn’t beat Boxer in this election in 2010, I mean when all the momentum is with the Republicans, it just goes to show that California is behind Barbara Boxer,” said Mendoza, 35.

Exit polling indicated Fiorina, 56, fared best with older voters, winning about 50 percent of the vote from those 65 and over.

She also won among white voters but lost heavily among blacks and Latinos. About 80 percent of black voters favored Boxer and about two-thirds of Latino voters supported the incumbent.

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