RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WVEC) - Republican US Sen. Richard Burr defeats Democrat Deborah Ross to retain North Carolina seat.

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For much of this year, the race between Republican incumbent Richard Burr and Democratic nominee Deborah Ross stayed in the background while spotlights focused on the governor's race and the contest over North Carolina's 15 Electoral College votes for president.

Burr, who is nearing the end of his second term in the Senate, has had a lower profile in office than some senators. Pundits initially gave Ross little chance of unseating him. Recent polls, however, say it's a real contest and North Carolinians and others are paying attention.

The race has featured a heavy dose of accusations by the campaigns against the opposition and wandered into areas like the presidential contest and HB2.

Ross, an attorney and former state legislator from Raleigh, has criticized Burr for a large increase in his personal wealth since he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and for being one of only three senators to vote against a bill to make it illegal for senators and House members to make stock trades based on inside information they get through their jobs.

Impact: The Burr-Ross race is one of a handful that will determine which political party will control the Senate for 2017 and 2018. That will have repercussions on the process of filling vacancies on the Supreme Court -- some of the sitting justices are getting a bit long in the tooth -- and confirming the new president's picks for other jobs.

Burr is one of three Republican senators to raise the possibility of blocking a Clinton nominee to the Supreme Court. Regardless of what happens to the party balance in the Senate, a Burr victory could encourage other Republican senators to dig in their heels on the issue. A Burr loss might make them more pliable.

Republicans are almost universally expected to retain control of the U.S. House. A Democrat-controlled Senate would give a President Clinton much more leverage in the legislative process even though she would not have a free hand. A Republican Senate would give the GOP considerably more power to block Clinton's agenda.

A President Trump would be much more free to enact his proposals on trade, taxes, immigration and other issues if Republicans rule both houses of Congress. A Democratic Senate would be the biggest check on Trump's power.