Maine Legislator Who Fought Mask Rules Resigns After Wife's Death From COVID

Maine state Representative Chris Johansen, who has bucked pandemic restrictions, resigned from his legislative position because his wife's death from COVID-19 means he is needed to tend to their farm.

His wife, Cindy Johansen, died after contracting the coronavirus in July. Her death hasn't changed his opinion on vaccines or mask requirements, which he's mocked, but he told House Speaker Ryan Fecteau that her "dedication" to the farm allowed him to serve in the Legislature, a luxury he no longer can afford.

Calling his resignation a "difficult decision" to make, Johansen doubled down on his opposition to pandemic restrictions. He wrote in a November 19 letter to Fecteau that he feels there's "still much to be done to roll back the expansion of state power that we have witnessed these past two years."

He added that it was his "distinct honor" to represent Aroostook County residents during the pandemic because he served as a "voice of opposition to uncontrolled emergency powers."

Johansen fought mask restrictions and got into a confrontation with police in May when he and six other lawmakers entered Maine's Statehouse without masks. They were stripped of their committee assignments for breaking the rule, but it did little to temper his opposition.

chris johansen covid resign wife death covid
Maine state Representative Chris Johansen, an opponent of pandemic restrictions, has resigned because he says he can no longer serve in the Legislature and take care of his farm after his wife's death from COVID-19. Above, an anti-masking protester holds up a sign in front of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on July 18, 2020. Jeff Dean/AFP/Getty Images

After his wife's death, Johansen attended an anti-vaccine rally. He joined a crowd of about 400 people at the Statehouse to protest Governor Janet Mills' mandate that all health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19. He also organized a protest in front of Mills' residence in April 2020 to demand that she reopen the state's economy.

Cindy, who had asthma, announced on Facebook that she had COVID-19, noting that she had passed out on the garage floor and her "legs were like rubber," according to the Portland Press Herald. In an August Facebook post, her husband acknowledged that Cindy had been hospitalized and said doctors were checking to see if she could breathe on her own when they removed a ventilator.

Days later, he posted that "it was all bad news today" and that his wife had "suffered several major setbacks." Although he never confirmed that she died of COVID-19, a Maine Republican Party spokesperson did.

In a Facebook post before his resignation, Johansen said he would like to finish out his term but didn't "see a way to do this." Without Cindy, he said, there would be no one to maintain their home, including feeding their two dogs and making sure the heat is on because he would have to be in Augusta, the state capital, up to five days a week for the first five months of the year.

Newsweek reached out to Johansen for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.