Rep. John Andrews, L-Paris Credit: Contributed

AUGUSTA, Maine — A representative from Oxford County left the Republican Party on Monday to become only one of two Libertarian state legislators in the country after expressing dissatisfaction with his former party’s leadership in the chamber.

While the departure of Rep. John Andrews of Paris is unlikely to change the State House calculus — he is an arch-conservative member — it is a boon to Libertarians as the third party makes yet another attempt to organize here after fits and starts in recent years.

The party has struggled to maintain enough voters to be legitimate in Maine. It first tried to gain recognition in 2015 and won official status in 2016. But it then lost it in 2018 after not having enough registered voters. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap certified the party to begin pursuing party status on Friday, meaning interested residents — including Andrews — can register.

Andrews, a second-term lawmaker who represents his hometown plus Hebron and Buckfield, confirmed he unenrolled Monday after he learned he would not be returning to the committee overseeing voting, gambling and liquor laws, which he served on during his first term. Andrews said the placement “just didn’t make sense” and that he had enjoyed the work.

He is set to instead serve on the innovation and economic development committee. In a Saturday post on Facebook, he targeted House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, over his placement, saying it was “obviously punishment for something” and said she was unfit to lead. 

“It’s a new day and a new party, and I’m just hoping to get some good work done,” Andrews said.

His decision erodes the Republican minority to 66 seats after a largely unexpected strong showing for the party in the 2020 election. There are four independents in the chamber plus Passamaquoddy Tribal representative Rena Newell, who can vote only in committees.

There have only been two third-party legislators in Maine history, both from the Green Party. Only one of them — John Eder of Portland — won election as a member of the party. The last Maine lawmaker to change his affiliation was Rep. Norman Higgins, I-Dover-Foxcroft, in 2017. The former Republican was ousted this year by Rep. Richard Evans, D-Dover-Foxcroft, after a Republican split the ticket in the consevative district.

The Libertarian Party in Maine has sued Dunlap’s office over the state’s process of delisting parties, parts of which a federal judge have deemed unconstitutional. A trial in that case is set for early next year.

Andrews will be the first Libertarian to serve in the Maine Legislature and is one of only two in the entire country. The other is Marshall Burt of Wyoming, who beat a sitting Democrat in the 2020 election and is one of only five Libertarians state legislators ever elected. Outgoing U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a former Republican, joined the party in April to become the first Libertarian member of Congress.