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North Carolina Democrat Hagan is sworn in

WASHINGTON — Kay Hagan, one of last election season's unlikeliest candidates, put her hand on a bible and swore her allegiance to the Constitution on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate, taking her place as North Carolina?s second female senator and first Democrat since John Edwards.

After the swearing-in, she grinned up at her family in the gallery and carried her bible back to her desk.

"It was so exciting to sit there with my hand up in the Senate chamber," Hagan said. "It was very special."

Hagan, of Greensboro, surprised many when she emerged a year ago from an important but quiet role in the state Senate to take on Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a former presidential candidate and consummate fundraiser who was once voted one of the most respected women in the world.

Tuesday, Hagan looked right at home. She walked onto the Senate floor shortly before the noon ceremony, greeted fellow senators with hugs and handshakes and took her seat in a far corner, next to freshman Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Hagan remains somewhat unsettled in Washington, though, as office assignments have not yet been doled out to freshmen. Instead, she and others are in cramped quarters in the basement of the Dirksen Senate office building. There, her office hosted a reception Tuesday afternoon with cookies, lemonade and unsweetened tea.Hagan also held another, swankier reception in the new Capitol Visitor Center adjacent to the U.S. Capitol.

And the work of Washington already has begun. Stopping by the office reception were North Carolina residents and lobbyists, including representatives from the Farm Bureau, the Sierra Club and Womble Carlysle, a Winston-Salem law firm. They were there to offer congratulations, but also to press their issues -- among them the upcoming economic stimulus package.

Hagan has not yet been assigned to committees, though she requested spots on the Senate banking and armed services panels.