State Rep. Chris Johansen, R- Monticello, wears a face shield as he takes the oath of office at the Augusta Civic Center, Wednesday, Dec 2, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Rep. Chris Johansen, a Monticello Republican who reportedly contracted COVID-19 in mid-July and lost his wife to the virus, attended an anti-mandate rally in Augusta on Tuesday.

Johansen, who had been outspoken against pandemic restrictions and mask mandates, joined a rally against Maine’s new vaccine mandate for health care workers where Rep. Heidi Sampson, R-Alfred, compared Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and her sister to Nazi doctors who performed experiments on Jews during the Holocaust, The Daily Beast reported on Friday.

Neither Johansen, nor his late wife Cindy Johansen, had received a coronavirus vaccine, according to Facebook posts made in mid-July.

Cindy Johansen made a number of Facebook posts in alluding to COVID-19, and on July 16 she posted that she was “feeling like I’m going to pass out” and that her “legs were like rubber.” She later shared on July 21 that it was “horrible to be alone.”

Chris Johansen posted to his Facebook page on Aug. 7 that “It was all bad news today. Cindy has suffered several major set backs.”

Although Chris Johansen did not publicly confirm his wife’s death, a spokesperson for the Maine Republican Party confirmed her death to the Daily Beast. Chris Johansen did not publicly acknowledge that he or his wife had been sickened by the coronavirus. He also declined to comment when contacted by the Bangor Daily News on July 23.

Aroostook County Republicans, where Cindy Johansen had served as the corresponding secretary-officer, did not publicly acknowledge her COVID diagnosis or her death. Aroostook County Democrats posted a message of condolences to its Facebook page on Aug. 15, and urged Mainers to heed precautions, such as masking and social distancing, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Chris Johansen has been an outspoken opponent of state coronavirus restrictions and has organized multiple protests. In April 2020, he organized a protest in front of the Blaine House asking Mills to reopen the state’s economy. A second protest organized later that month flouted pandemic gathering restrictions.

Johansen was also one of seven lawmakers who initially refused to wear masks at the Maine State House, a requirement that was left in place even after the state’s mask mandate was lifted as coronavirus vaccination rates started to improve throughout the state. Johansen was temporarily removed from his committee position by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.