Independent U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn of Bar Harbor poses for a photo before a 2020 campaign debate. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Max Linn, one of the more colorful characters in Maine politics and perhaps the first Mainer to catch COVID-19, died over the weekend.

Linn, 62, ran for U.S. Senate in 2020 as an independent and attracted attention for cutting up a mask during a televised debate and declaring “request denied” in refusing to answer questions.

One of his attorneys, Jeff Silverstein of Bangor, said Monday that he heard from someone reliable that Linn died of a heart attack late Saturday. Linn had long had a heart condition.

A woman who answered the phone Monday at Linn’s home sounded sad, declined to comment and referred a reporter to a different lawyer who could not be reached immediately.

Linn, 62, got into politics as a businessman in Florida, where he ran for Congress and for governor at different times, falling well short. At one point in the race, he made an emergency landing on a highway while piloting his plane to a campaign event.

He moved to Maine at least five years ago, making a stab at politics in 2018 before snagging a spot on the ballot in 2020 as an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump. He wound up with 1.6% of the vote in a four-way race won by incumbent Susan Collins, a Republican.

Linn didn’t slink away after his defeat. He was among those present outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 protesting Democrat Joe Biden’s election.

Former Maine U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn of Bar Harbor was among a crowd of Trump backers Jan. 6 outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., where insurgents briefly seized parts of the building and forced members of Congress to flee. Submitted photo

Back in Florida, though, he’d been a strident backer of President Barack Obama’s first run for office. Linn also ran for the U.S. House as a Democrat.

Linn had a reputation as a hothead. But in private conversation, he was far more reasonable than his deliberately outrageous public persona.

Silverstein said he was “an absolute pleasure” to work with the last few months on a court case brought by a former aide who accused Linn of pointing a gun at him after a dispute about a cryptocurrency investment.

Linn returned to Maine in December 2019 from a business trip to China so sick that he admitted he felt like he might not survive. He said in a conversation with a reporter that it’s possible he picked up the COVID-19 virus during a stop in Wuhan, where the virus allegedly originated about the same time.

But Linn said he was never tested and did not know whether he got COVID-19, a disease he tended to scoff at in public.

Matt McDonald, his former aide who asked for a protective order against him, said Monday that he picked up Linn from the airport on Dec. 26, 2019, after his return from China.

“I’ve never seen anyone so sick outside a hospital,” McDonald said. Linn had a hard time breathing, he said.

Before long, McDonald, too, took ill. He said it felt “like someone pouring fire on my lungs.”

At the time, doctors told them they had an unidentified lung condition, but McDonald is certain he got COVID-19 from Linn. He had COVID antibodies when tested in March 2020, he said.

“He brought COVID to Maine,” McDonald said. “He was patient zero.”

During his Senate campaign, Linn was an ardent foe of public health measures aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19. At one point, he denounced Dr. Nirav Shah, who heads the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, calling him “the very doctor of death.”

Max Linn speaks to a reporter in December 2019 in Hong Kong. Submitted photo

During the same trip to China that brought him to Wuhan, Linn made a stop in Hong Kong, where he joined a mass protest against the growing crackdown by Chinese authorities on Hong Kong’s traditional liberties.

“That made him proud,” McDonald said.

McDonald said that despite the sour ending of their time together — he’s the one who sought a protective order against Linn — he is grief-stricken to lose a man who was once a close friend.

Linn, he said, “was all the cool things that make humans human,” from traveling widely to giving to charity to living life “by his own rules.”

“I lost a friend,” he said, “and Maine lost a character.”

Lawyer Walter McKee said Monday that McDonald dismissed his protection order case against Linn “right when I set up depositions of Matt, his wife and parents in that case. This was because Matt’s allegations came on the heels of Matt’s theft of $225,000 from Max…”

McKee claims that McDonald admitted to stealing money from Linn “when interviewed by the police.”

“I am in the process of referring the matter to the Attorney General’s Office for the prosecution of Matt McDonald,” McKee said.

McDonald, however, denies stealing from Linn and said he didn’t know about a possible case against him.

“That’s news to me,” McDonald said when he learned of the development from a reporter. He said he does not know McKee and never stole any money from Linn.

McDonald has not been charged with a crime.

Max Linn at Acadia National Park. Submitted photo

Linn made a fortune as a financial planner in Florida before he jumped into the political arena, running for governor on the Reform Party ticket and then for Congress as a Democrat.

By the time he registered in Maine a decade ago, he was a Republican.

But party labels, he said, never meant too much to him. He was a political maverick who admitted he loved to shake things up.

McDonald said Linn, who owned homes around the globe, had visited every U.S. national park and wound up choosing to live in Bar Harbor because he loved Acadia National Park more than anywhere else. He said Linn loved to hike its trails and paths.

But Linn also had a restless nature that took him to many lands, including China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Dubai.

Linn had a longtime partner but it is not clear they were married. He had no known children. He has a brother. His father died years ago, but his mother, a former Newsweek journalist, lived to be 88, dying in 2014.

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