LEWISTON — Voters in Lewiston returned two-term mayor Robert Macdonald to office Tuesday, ending a spirited campaign between the incumbent and his Democratic upstart challenger Ben Chin.

The results were announced shortly after 9:15 p.m. by City Clerk Kathy Montejo in the gymnasium of the Governor James B. Longley Elementary School. Some of the ballot counters applauded.

Macdonald received 4,398 votes, about 53 percent, to Chin’s 3,826 votes, 47 percent.

Reached at his home after the results were announced, Mayor Macdonald said his re-election felt like a “reward.”

“It felt good. A lot of people came up to me and said, ‘Even if you don’t win, we think you have done a lot of good,’ ” he said.

Chin, 30, said he expected the race to be close and was proud of his campaign.

“Our standard was to run the campaign we wanted and talk about the issues we felt were important, and I think we did that,” he said late Tuesday, surrounded by supporters at Guthries, a local restaurant and pub.

The story of Tuesday’s runoff election was turnout, which was steady all day and ended up at 8,229 to nearly match the total for the November general election.

In addition to nearly 3,000 absentee ballots, more than 5,000 voters showed up in person on Tuesday, which translated to about 32 percent. Lewiston has roughly 25,000 registered voters.

“Interest in this race has been really strong,” Montejo said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re seeing people today who didn’t vote last month.”

Chin was the top vote-getter in the five-way general election on Nov. 3, with 44 percent support, followed by Macdonald at 37 percent.

However, because no candidate got 50 percent, the top two moved on to Tuesday’s special election.

THIRD TERM FOR RETIRED DETECTIVE

Macdonald, 68, has been Lewiston’s mayor for the past four years. He was first elected in 2011, also in a runoff, although his opponent in that race, Mark Paradis, died before the special election.

Macdonald was re-elected in 2013, handily defeating former Mayor Larry Gilbert.

Macdonald, a retired police detective whose tenure as mayor has been marked by sometimes controversial statements about welfare recipients and immigrants, raised the race’s profile in September when he proposed creating an online registry for those collecting welfare benefits.

Earlier Tuesday, he said that if he won, he would continue to make his case for welfare reform. He also mentioned housing as a top priority.

“We need to create better housing for our working class people,” he said.

This race was different from the last two he has run, Macdonald said, citing Chin’s aggressive fundraising.

“I think that probably ended up hurting him in the long run because Lewiston isn’t used to that type of campaign,” Macdonald said.

CHIN HAD BIG FUNDRAISING EDGE

Chin, a 2006 Bates College graduate and political director for the Maine People’s Alliance, declared his candidacy in February and raised nearly $88,000 for his campaign – a 15-to-1 fundraising edge over Macdonald.

Chin said he was touched by all the support he received, but hadn’t given much thought to his future in politics.

“I’m just looking forward to having four weeks off for paternity leave,” he said. Chin’s daughter was born just a few days before the November election.

This year’s race was hotly contested for several months and has drawn interest from beyond Lewiston.

At the polls Tuesday, voters were pretty clearly divided between Chin, the liberal Democrat representing change, and Macdonald, the conservative firebrand whose ideas and style are reminiscent of another Lewiston native, Gov. Paul LePage.

Amid the steady stream of voters, there were many younger men and woman, including Bates College students, and many immigrants. Overwhelmingly, those groups favored Chin.

Emma Marchetti, 20, a Bates College student from Whitefish, Montana, was shuttling voters from campus to the polling place.

A group of five female students who arrived shortly after 3 p.m. all voted for Chin.

Claire Sullivan, 18, of Montville, New Jersey, said Chin’s views more closely align with her own.

Becca Havian, 18, of California agreed and said she wanted to vote in the Lewiston race because she feels more connected to the community than she does to her own hometown.

“I want this community to change and I like the idea of being an agent of change,” she said.

Marchetti said some student voters had not been welcomed with open arms on Tuesday.

“I was in line and a woman was talking about how because she lives here, she knows what’s going on and students couldn’t possibly be informed,” Marchetti said. “I just don’t think that’s true.”

RETIREES FAVORED INCUMBENT

Abdi Ahmed, who has spent the past 12 years in Lewiston, said he voted for Chin because he thinks the city is changing. Chin, he said, represents that change, while Macdonald resists it.

The other big bloc of voters was retirees, who appeared to favor Macdonald.

Larry and Janine Roy, both lifelong Lewiston residents, said they voted for Macdonald.

“I’m afraid of this young buck who has no life experience,” Janine Roy said of Chin.

“I like what Macdonald has done so far,” Larry Roy added.

The Maine Republican Party congratulated Macdonald on his victory.

“Tonight’s results should send a strong signal to Maine Democrat leadership – Lewiston is not for sale, and you are out of step with common-sense, mainstream views of Maine voters,” Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said in a statement.