Maine state legislator dies two days before unapposed primary

Sitting Maine State Rep. Jeffrey Gifford (R), 75, died Sunday, just two days before the primary election in which he ran unopposed for the district that includes Lincoln.

Gifford served four terms in the House between 2006 and 2014, and was also elected to another term in 2020.

Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers praised Gifford for his service to Maine and his dedication to his local community and family.

“He was dedicated to his family and to serving his community. It was in his nature to step up when he was needed. He was an active member of the Lincoln Town Council and a local football coach for decades. He felt it was important to serve the Lincoln area in Augusta. I know he was a loving husband and a very proud dad, grandfather and great-grandfather. We will miss him in the Maine Legislature,” House Speaker Ryan Fecteau(D) said.

Praise from all sides

“Jeff Gifford was the very definition of a devoted public servant. Loving, committed, faithful, humble, and gentle in his approach. His presence was a gift that lifted the spirits of those around him. Jeff was always ready with a kind and supportive word. Steady, dependable, and steadfast in his beliefs and concern for others, he will be greatly missed, but has left his mark on those who remain,” House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham (R) said.

Governor Janet Mills also praised Gifford, saying, “Representative Gifford was a dedicated public servant. A hard working man and a long time football coach, he loved his community and the good people he proudly represented in the Legislature.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R) also weighed in. “Jeff was a man of many talents, and he generously used his time and expertise to give back to his neighbors in Lincoln. Whether it was through his service in the State Legislature, on the Town Council, or as a football coach, Jeff constantly strived to make the community a better place,” she said.

Before becoming a state representative, Gifford’s career was in the pulp and paper industry. His business background helped him in his later political career.

A trend?

Gifford is survived by his wife Irene, three children, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He is the fourth sitting state legislator to die this year. Reps. Donna Doore, 70, of Augusta, died of cancer in January; John Tuttle Jr., of Sanford, 70, died in January after a long illness; and Rep. Theodore “Ted” Kryzak Jr., 66, of Acton, died in March of unknown causes.

Doore and Tuttle were Democrats while Kryzak was a Republican.

Former Deputy Mayor and city council member Joseph Hanslip will now run for the seat vacated by Gifford when he died, according to primary election results. Hanslip also ran unopposed for the seat on the Republican ticket.

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