Updated 8:33 a.m. Nov. 7, 2018
U.S. Senator Angus King is on track to represent Maine in Washington for a second term, according to the latest results from yesterday's election. With 69 percent of the vote tallied, King, an independent, holds a lead of 54 percent to Republican challenger Eric Brakey's 36 percent, followed by Democrat Zak Ringelstein, with 10 percent.
King declared victory a little before midnight, before a somewhat thinned-out, but giddy crowd at a Brunswick brewery. After introducing many in his extended family, he staked his claim to the seat on the call by Portland-based WCSH TV.
"I guess CSH said we won, right? So that must mean it's true,” he said.
He thanked his campaign staff and volunteers and then, worrying that it was immodest, he mentioned a road worker who thanked him for maintaining a steady demeanor in the midst of political tumult.
"He had a yellow vest and a hard hat, and I went over to shake his hand, and he took his earphones out and shook my hand and he said ‘In all this mess, you're the only one I trust.’ And my whole goal is to continue to earn that trust,” said King. “That's what this is all about."
For his part, Republican challenger Eric Brakey, a state senator, wasn't ready to concede the race Tuesday night. He continued with a message that had echoed some of President Donald' Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric, as well as a sense of grievance against the federal government.
"Wherever we go after tonight, any time that we see that Washington D.C. is kicking us around, any time that we see that our freedoms, our constitutional rights are not being respected, that the money that we earn is being stolen from us by the richest region in America, Washington D.C. that doesn't make anything at all ... they just have gotten so rich by stealing from the rest of us. .. that's why we need to fight for Maine,” said Brakey.
Wednesday morning, though, Brakey conceded and shared a social media post sharing his thanks for support.
— Sen. Eric Brakey (@SenatorBrakey) November 7, 2018
Democrat Zak Ringelstein, a public-school teacher, took a quieter road to election day. He cast himself as the progressive choice, the one most concerned about global warming, and an alternative to a slow-to-change status quo represented by King. Ringelstein conceded early in the evening.
"I am going to make sure that Senator Angus King — just like I did when I made sure that he returned Exxon Mobil money — I am going to work with him, and I am going to make sure that with Angus King over the next six years, the future is now," said Ringelstein.
Brakey and Ringelstein are both in their 30s, while King is 74. To some degree, his apparent win is a testament to the deep political and personal ties that, over time, he's forged with Maine citizens through two terms as Governor and one as Senator.
John Williams, a Nobleboro resident who was an environmental official under Gov. King, says that more than any one issue, what's kept him in King's camp is the way he approaches public problems.
"He's just a really thoughtful person, I agree with him on almost all of his positions,” said Williams. “But even if I didn't, I know that he's making decisions by really carefully analyzing the information, so I just really trust his judgment."
At the end of the night, King, who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, suggested that the apparent Democratic takeover of Congress might be a sign of better political times to come. Then he invited all Mainers to visit him on Capitol Hill on Wednesday mornings when the senate is in session, for coffee and blueberry cake.
This post was updated to show that Brakey has conceded.