Trish Law said it had been a cleaner campaign this time
Independent Trish Law has held onto the Blaenau Gwent assembly seat which she won in the by-election which followed her husband Peter's death last year.
Mrs Law increased her majority in what was once Labour's safest seat in Wales, taking 54% of the vote.
But fellow independent, the former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, failed in his bid to win the Caerphilly seat which he formerly held for Labour.
He was third behind Labour's Jeff Cuthbert and Plaid's Lindsey Whittle.
Mr Davies stood down as Labour AM for Caerphilly just before the 2003 assembly election over press allegations about his private life.
As Welsh Secretary in the 1990s he became known as the "architect of devolution" for his role in creating the assembly.
In her acceptance speech, Mrs Law hit out at Welsh Labour leader Rhodri Morgan.
"I must say that Rhodri Morgan got it wrong again when he spoke about me getting a sympathy vote in the by-election 10 months ago," she said.
But she said she would support a Labour assembly government.
Mrs Law's husband Peter was both AM and MP for Blaenau Gwent until his death from cancer last year. He was originally a Labour politician but became an independent after a row over all-women shortlists.
Mrs Law became the new AM for Blaenau Gwent while her husband's former agent won his seat at Westminster.
The swing from Labour's 2003 election result was 46.5%. Ms Law polled 12,722 votes, more than 5,000 more than Labour.
Jeff Cuthbert was returned for a second term at Caerphilly
In a short acceptance speech, the AM said: "The people of Blaenau Gwent have again sent a message to the main political parties that they really must start putting people before politics."
After the result, Mrs Law was handed a bouquet by her supporters and, in an interview with BBC Wales, she tearfully said her late husband would have thought her latest triumph "fantastic".
"He would have been behind me all the way," she said.
Ms Law also said that it had been a cleaner campaign than the one she fought 10 months ago following her husband's death.
Despite her disagreements with Rhodri Morgan, she told the BBC she would be happy to support Labour.
"I will work with whoever is going to be good for Blaenau Gwent and for Wales as a whole," she added.