Boston (CNN) - Scott Brown heralded his upset victory in Tuesday's special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts as the start of an overhaul of Washington politics.
In a victory speech to a chanting crowd, the Republican state senator paid tribute to liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy, who held the seat Brown won for almost 47 years before dying of brain cancer last August.
Calling Kennedy "a tireless worker and a good-hearted public servant," Brown said his first call after winning went to Kennedy's widow, Vicki.
"I told her that his name would always command the affection and respect of the people of the state of Massachusetts," Brown said, adding: "There's no replacing a man like that. But tonight I honor the memory and pledge that I'll try to be a worthy successor to the late Sen. Kennedy."
Brown called his come-from-behind victory "just the beginning of an election year filled with many, many surprises" for Democrats.
No Republican had won a U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts since 1972, and Democrats control the governorship, both houses of the state legislature, and the state's entire congressional delegation.
"When there's trouble in Massachusetts, rest assured there's trouble everywhere, and they know it," Brown said of the Democratic Party.
He outlined a conservative agenda, starting with opposition to the Democratic health care bill that his election might doom in Congress.
"People do not want a trillion dollar health-care plan that is being forced on the American people," Brown said. "This bill is not being debated openly and fairly. It will raise taxes, it will hurt Medicare, it will destroy jobs and it will run this nation into debt."
The crowd chanted "41, 41" because Brown will be the 41st Republican senator in the 100-member chamber, denying Democrats their 60-seat super-majority, which has allowed them to overcome GOP filibuster attempts to block the health care bill.
Brown said his victory defied "the odds and experts" who predicted the Senate seat held by Democrats for more than 50 years would not change hands.
Instead, independent voters who outnumber registered Democrats and Republicans combined in Massachusetts strongly supported Brown and his grassroots campaign, which included driving his pickup all over the state.
"Tonight the independent majority has delivered a great victory," Brown said.
"What happened here in Massachusetts can happen all over America," he later said. "We are all witnesses, you and I, to the truth that hard work, strength of heart … can overcome the political machine."