When Leslie Gibson sent out a few tweets last week, he had no idea how many people would wind up seeing them.
The Republican candidate for the Maine House of Representatives from Sabattus called one student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., “a skinhead lesbian” and another “a bald-faced liar.”
He took a little flak for his comments online — not unusual for him given the strident social media presence he’s had for years — but nothing like the firestorm set off this week when a news story about his posts caught the attention of many who live far from the 57th District.
Ty Vassil, operations chief for Margate-Coconut Creek Fire Rescue who responded to the school shooting in Parkland last month, said Wednesday that he is “ashamed for the good folks in Maine” who could be represented by Gibson.
Vassil said that Gibson’s “unnecessary and unfortunate commentary” is “a great example of what is wrong in our country.”
Closer to home, a Republican incumbent from Auburn took issue with Gibson as well.
Rep. Bruce Bickford posted a message on Facebook that said Gibson’s commentary “is not an example of the Republican Party. I cannot and will not support this person! So sad!!”
The Democrats saw an opportunity, as well.
The party, which may have a candidate willing to challenge Gibson, said that while many around the country are denouncing Gibson, “there is a group of people in Maine who have remained shamefully silent: Republican leaders.”
In a prepared statement, the Democratic state chairman, Phil Bartlett, questioned why Gov. Paul LePage and the GOP gubernatorial contenders have remained mum on the issue.
“Regardless of where someone falls along the political spectrum, we should all be able to agree that Les Gibson’s comments are reprehensible and deserving of our denunciation,” Bartlett said.
The Republican Party has not responded to requests for comment this week, though state Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, has also denounced Gibson.
“It shouldn’t be hard to condemn hate and clearly and unequivocally say that it has no place in our state — especially if you want to lead it,” Bartlett said. “Today, we’re once again calling on Republican leaders to speak out against Gibson and his shameful comments.”
Vassil said his children “lost friends and mentors” among the 17 killed in the Feb. 14 shootings in Florida.
He said the students who have spoken out, including Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, the two Gibson cited, “are outstanding citizens.”
“Emma Gonzalez is a beautiful example of what is right with the up-and-coming generation,” Vassil said.
When he was questioned about his words on Twitter by a reporter, Gibson wrote directly to Gonzalez to extend “my most sincere apology.”
He described his tweets as “wrong and unacceptable” and offered his hand “in friendship and understanding.”
Gibson, who remains the sole candidate in the race for the House seat from Sabattus and Greene, has not had a response from Gonzalez.
Some of the stories on Google News that focus on Leslie Gibson’s comments about Parkland, Florida, teens who have been promoting gun control in the wake of the shootings at their high school last month.