A state legislator in Maine who aggressively fought mask and vaccine mandates has resigned just months after his wife died of Covid-19.
Rep Chris Johansen, a Republican who represented parts of Aroostook County, had vigorously protested pandemic precautions in his state, and was one of seven lawmakers who refused to wear masks in the Maine House of Representatives, causing a confrontation with police. Mr Johansen and his wife, Cindy Johansen, also posted numerous messages on Facebook casting doubt about the pandemic and vaccines.
In July, they both contracted the virus. Ms Johansen later died of Covid-19.
On 19 November, Mr Johansen wrote a letter to House Speaker Ryan Fecteau stating his intent to step down. According to the lawmaker, his wife had taken care of their farm, giving him time to serve his district in the House. Now that she was gone, he could not do both.
“This is a difficult decision to make, as I feel there is still much to be done to roll back the expansion of state power that we have witnessed these past two years,” Mr Johansen wrote. “But I also must honor my obligations to my family and to my animals.”
Even after losing his wife to Covid-19, Mr Johansen spent much of his resignation letter railing against mask and vaccine requirements, casting them as examples of government overreach – mostly by Maine’s governor, the Democrat Janet Mills.
“The last two years have been about fighting for the principle that Government doesn’t get to tell you how to live your life,” Mr Johansen wrote. “It has been my distinct honor to serve the People of Aroostook County in Augusta, especially during the Covid-19 health crisis, when I was put in a position to be a voice of opposition to uncontrolled emergency powers in the hands of one person.”
The outgoing lawmaker did not mention that he and his wife had contracted Covid, or that his wife had died of it. However, a spokesperson for the Maine Republican Party confirmed to the Portland Press Herald that this was her cause of death.
Ms Johansen’s passing has not appeared to change her widower’s views regarding the pandemic. Just weeks after she died, the Herald reported, Mr Johansen attended a protest of Maine’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
Covid is currently surging in Maine, where new cases have been averaging above 600 per day, and hospitalizations have spiked to over 300 per day. Both numbers are the highest they’ve been since the start of the pandemic.
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