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PEPPERELL — Incumbent Republican Rep. Robert Hargraves was given a convincing 54 to 41 percent victory (11,459 to 8,791) over Democratic challenger Virginia Wood by voters in the 1st Middlesex District during record or near-record turnout.

It was the second time in his career he prevailed against Wood. The first was in 1994 when he was elected by a 59 to 40 percent margin. But throughout his campaign gathering in the VFW after polls closed, Hargraves never took re-election for granted.

“We knew we’d be bucking the tide,” he said. “You always run like you’re 10 points behind.”

Groton results were first to come in, then Pepperell.

“Dunstable looks good, Ayer should be even, and Townsend should be no problem,” he speculated.

As supporters watched televised national polls swing toward President-elect Barrack Obama, Hargraves supporter Rich Mitchell of Groton had no doubt about the local outcome.

“Bob is a red block in a sea of blue,” he said.

Two hours before polls closed, Wood had been holding a sign under a white tent in the Varnum Brook school parking lot.

“Holding public office is so satisfying because you feel your contributing, getting something good done,” she said, “even though the paper did not endorse me.”

Asked what she would say if not victorious, Wood said she’d rather not think about that at the time.

Later however, reached at her campaign party at Billiard’s in Ayer, Wood was surprisingly upbeat.

“I’m doing just fine,” she said above the din. “I wish Bob good luck over the next two years. I’ll be running my restaurant, fine-dining at Ken’s American Cafe, Main Street, Littleton, thank you very much.”

When final results were in, Hargraves thanked his campaign workers and apprised them of the votes by town.

“The biggest (margin of victory) was Townsend, then Pepperell, Groton, Dunstable and Ayer, which we always know is the closest, about 150 to 160 votes, I think,” he said.

“I can’t emphasize enough the work you folks did standing out, supporting me on the phones, and especially the large number of young people who helped,” he said.

“I’m at a loss for words right now. It takes a lot of work and a couple of my friends didn’t make it,” Hargraves continued. “People complain about the legislature yet they vote to put them right back in … you make you’re bed.

“I want to thank my bride,” he added, then reported, “Townsend was the last in, and rest assured, Townsend is always in (for me).”

Wednesday morning Wood was at work in her restaurant.

“I think is was excellent Obama won. We need to re-prioritize where we’re going in this world. Hopefully he can,” she said.

“The turnout for me was great. I thank the election workers, especially the folks on the steering committee who did a tremendous job and worked their hearts out. Plus Art Campbell and Ray Allen Gilles who did my web site and computer work.”

Wood said she will run her restaurant and contemplate her political future.

“It’s way too early to tell, but if there’s someone out there like (Ayer selectman) Rick Gilles who wants to do it, I’d certainly be behind him,” she said.

Independent party candidate, 21-year-old Pepperell college student Zachary Saboliauskas, received 527 votes in his first electoral race.