Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (KEHR'-sten JIL'-uh-brand) has been elected in New York to the seat she was appointed to last year to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Associated Press called the race for Gillibrand over Republican Joe DioGuardi based on interviews with voters as they left the polls statewide Tuesday.

The special-election victory gives Gillibrand the seat until 2012, which would have been the end of Clinton's term if she hadn't resigned to become U.S. secretary of state.

Gillibrand was appointed to the seat by Democratic Gov. David Paterson in January 2009. The win represents a milestone in Gillibrand's brief Senate career, in which she initially was labeled by critics as too inexperienced and conservative.

DioGuardi is a certified public accountant who represented Westchester County in the House in the 1980s.