SABATTUS — Hoping to restore “some peace and quiet in our lives,” controversial Republican candidate Leslie Gibson abandoned his effort to win a state House seat Friday.
“I am not walking away with my head hung low. I am walking away with my head held high,” said Gibson, a Sabattus resident.
Gibson said he made the decision after talking with his family, praying and discussing it with friends and colleagues, including Thomas Martin Jr. of Greene, another GOP contender who entered the 57th District race Thursday.
“It’s the best thing for everybody,” Gibson said.
Martin said late Thursday that when he read Gibson’s strident comments about 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.
Gibson has been under fire this week for comments he made online about teens who survived a Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He criticized two who are leading an effort to increase restrictions on gun sales in the wake of the Feb. 14 killings of 17 people there.
Gibson had been cruising toward an unopposed election in the district, which includes Sabattus and Greene. But his comments stirred both Martin and Democrat Eryn Gilchrist to join the contest.
“There’s enough division in our state and country” already without ramping up the rhetoric, Martin said.
Gilchrist, too, called for more civil discussion.
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 vexing issues.
Both Gilchrist, 28, and Martin filed paperwork in Augusta on Thursday — the deadline for major party candidates — to ensure that Gibson did not go unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.
Gibson had remained quiet about his political plans as a firestorm raged online about his descriptions of two seniors from the Parkland 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.
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 representing 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 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.
Leslie Gibson (from his Twitter account)