MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker beat back a recall challenge Tuesday, winning the right to finish his term and a voter endorsement of his strategy to curb state spending, which included the explosive measure that eliminated union rights for most public workers.

The rising Republican star becomes the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt with his defeat of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and the union leaders who rallied for months against his agenda.

After his win, Walker said it was time “to put our differences aside and find ways to work together to move Wisconsin forward.”

The governor said he planned to invite lawmakers to meet as soon as next week over burgers and brats to discuss ways to bridge the political divide.

With nearly 80 percent of precincts reporting, Walker had 55 percent of the vote, to 44 percent for Barrett, according to early returns tabulated by The Associated Press.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley sent her congratulations to Walker, for whom she campainged last week. “Tonight, he proved that standing strong for the principles of fiscal responsibility is not only the right policy, but is rewarded by voters. It’s a great example the rest of the country,” Haley said.

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In his concession remarks, Barrett said the state had been left “deeply divided” by the recall battle. “It is up to all of us, their side and our side, to listen. To listen to each other,” Barrett said.

Democrats and organized labor spent millions of dollars to oust Walker, but still found themselves outspent by Republicans from across the country who donated record-setting sums to Walker.

Also Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and at least three Republicans in state Senate races also survived recalls. Republicans were leading in the other Senate race.