BRUNSWICK — U.S. Sen. Angus King declared victory late Tuesday in his bid for re-election, easily beating back his Republican and Democratic challengers.

“I’ve never been involved in a campaign where people worked so hard for so long,” King told a group of supporters who had gathered at Flight Deck Brewing in Brunswick, the town where King has lived for decades.

With 44 percent of Maine precincts counted, King had 54 percent of the vote, which put him ahead of both Republican Eric Brakey, with 35 percent, and Democrat Zak Ringelstein, 11 percent.

The mood at King’s campaign event was jubilant from the time polls closed and only grew as results trickled in.

When he took the stage shortly after 11:30 p.m. to declare victory, several family members, including his wife, Mary Herman, joined him on stage.

King thanked them one by one and then shared a story from the campaign about a Mainer he encountered who said King was the only politician he trusted. King said that stuck with him, and he hopes to keep earning Mainers’ trust.

Ringelstein called King to concede Tuesday night, but Brakey had not.

“We have run a great race, and Eric Brakey’s message to get Washington off our backs and win a better deal for Maine has reverberated around Maine,” said Brakey’s campaign manager, David Boyer.

King, 74, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, handily defeating his challengers Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill. He filled the Senate seat that had been held for three terms by Olympia Snowe, a Republican. 

King, who served as Maine’s governor from 1995 through 2003, is an independent but caucuses and regularly votes with Democrats in Congress.

Prior to election night, Republicans held a narrow majority in the Senate and were projected to retain that majority, albeit narrowly.

During the campaign, King weathered criticism from the right and the left.

Brakey, 30, a two-term state senator from Auburn, frequently cast King as a big spender and a flip-flopper.

Ringelstein, 32, a Democratic socialist and former teacher from Yarmouth, often hit King for his campaign contributions from various corporate interests.

In one memorable debate exchange, Ringelstein asked King is he would stop taking money from ExxonMobil, to which King replied, “Yes.”

Ringelstein then asked King if he would return the money he had already received. Again, King said, “Yes.”

Yet neither challenger was able to chip away at strong support for King, who is among the most popular U.S. senators.

King said during the campaign that if re-elected, this would be his final term.

Brakey’s next step is uncertain. He stepped down from his state Senate seat to run for Congress, so he will likely be away from public life for at least the next two years.

Ringelstein said two months ago — at the height of Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court — that if he did not win this race, he would run against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in 2020.

Collins, however, has not said whether she will run.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent, and his daughter, Molly Herman, show their optimism Tuesday for King’s re-election chances, outside a polling place in Brunswick. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Eric Brakey acknowledges his supporters Tuesday night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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