AUGUSTA — The Democrats aren’t the only ones taking a stand against Republican state House contender Leslie Gibson.
Gibson, whose harsh words for teens who survived a school shooting in Florida last month drew national ire, now faces two challengers for the 57th District — one of them from within the ranks of the GOP.
Thomas Martin Jr. said late Thursday that when he read Gibson’s strident comments about the two Parkland, Florida students, he felt compelled to get into the race.
Martin, a former state senator from Benton, said it is important to have a candidate who represents real Republican values.
“After those recent unfortunate comments, I couldn’t sit back,” Martin said.
With Martin’s entrance into the contest, there is a possible GOP primary on June 12 if Gibson opts to remain in the mix. The winner would face Democrat Eryn Gilchrist, who also jumped into the fray after Gibson’s words made national news.
“There’s enough division in our state and country already” said Martin, without ramping up the rhetoric as Gibson did when he took on the students for their efforts to push gun control after a shooting spree left 17 dead at their high school on Valentine’s Day.
Martin, a 52-year-old contractor, said that people have to realize “that our words and actions have consequences,” so it’s necessary to carry on a civil debate even on the most divisive issues.
Both Gilchrist, 28, and Martin filed paperwork in Augusta Thursday — the deadline for major party candidates — to ensure that Gibson did not go unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.
Gibson has not spoken about his political plans since his words created a furor that focused attention on his rural district, which includes both Sabattus and Greene. He has been vilified online for the comments he made about two seniors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have appeared on television frequently, David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez.
Gibson called Gonzalez a “skinhead lesbian” and Hogg “a bald faced liar.”
For Martin, that was beyond acceptable discourse.
He said he has reached out to Gibson but has not heard anything from him yet.
Martin served a single term in the state Senate starting in 2011. He said he enjoyed his stint in Augusta, learned a lot and made some lasting friends on both sides of the aisle.
He lost a re-election bid in 2012 in a district that represented much of Kennebec County.
Martin said he moved to Greene more recently after getting married. They chose to raise a family in Greene, he said, because it proved a good midway point for their respective jobs.
The 57th District includes Greene and Sabattus. It has been represented by Stephen Wood, a Republican who can’t run for re-election because he is in his fourth term, the longest he can serve by law. The general election is Nov. 6.
Republican state House candidate Thomas Martin Jr. (Courtesy photo)