Snow covers the park in front of the State House in Augusta on Wednesday Dec. 29, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Two Maine state representatives joined the dominant political parties ahead of the 2022 legislative session, giving them more institutional support ahead of the November election.

Most notable is Rep. John Andrews of Paris, who made headlines just over a year ago when he became the Legislature’s sole Libertarian in history after clashing with Republican leadership over committee assignments and has rejoined his old party. Rep. Sophie Warren of Scarborough became a Democrat after winning her seat in 2020 as an independent.

Their shifts bring the House balance to 81 Democrats, 65 Republicans and three independents. Party changes are relatively uncommon, with members usually dipping in and out of independent status. Maine’s lower chamber currently has two vacant seats, including one Gorham and Scarborough that will be filled in a special election next week.

Andrews said he made the change last Thursday because state law requires a candidate to be registered with a party before Jan. 1 to run for office. A court ruling requiring the state to re-enroll Libertarians who were unconstitutionally removed from their party came a day later. But Andrews said he was both happy with his choice and pleased by that ruling.

“I was a Republican before and many of my principles are aligned with them,” he said. “There are a lot of Republicans I want to work with next year and through this session as well.”

Andrews, an arch-conservative lawmaker who was one of seven to defy State House mask requirements last spring, will face a primary challenger in Ryan Ricci of Paris, who co-owns the 290 Maine Street restaurant in Norway. He said he will focus this session on his bipartisan bill aimed at reducing sex trafficking, which passed both chambers but remains unfunded.

Warren became a Democrat last fall, she said. A climate-change focused freshman, she said she made the change because she feels the partisan system in Augusta makes passing legislation difficult for independents. Her focus will remain on climate and tribal sovereignty.

“I had to ask myself, ‘How can I do better by the people of Scarborough?” she said.