[UPDATES: A pro-civility Republican also emerges to challenge Les Gibson | ‘Horrified’ Democrat decides to take on Gibson for House seat | Leslie Gibson under fire for his comments on Parkland teens | Republican state senator, Democrats call for Gibson to withdraw from state House race]
Two of the students who survived a shooting at a Florida high school last month have drawn harsh attacks recently from a Sabattus Republican who is running for the Maine House of Representatives.
Leslie Gibson, the only declared candidate for the 57th District, took to Twitter to call one young woman as a “skinhead lesbian.” He also denounced another as “baldfaced liar.”
The comments have stirred up some in Democratic ranks, but so far nobody has emerged to take on Gibson.
“I wish I knew someone who could get into this race,” said Pat Fogg, a Democratic organizer in Greene. “That sort of stupidity really turns people off.”
Gibson said Monday that during his career in the military, he took an oath “to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and he holds faith in those words.
“Because of this,” he said, “I am very passionate about protecting our constitutional rights from those who seek their elimination. It was not appropriate to single out the Parkland students, but I stand firm in my defense of our constitutional rights.”
The 18-year-old whom Gibson singled out, Emma Gonzalez, is perhaps the most visible of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the wake of a massacre there that left 17 students or staff members dead, she has emerged as a leader in a students’ fight to make assault rifles harder to acquire.
“There is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me and there is nothing that she has to say unless you’re frothing at the mouth moonbat,” Gibson wrote.
Gibson said in another tweet that calling her a survivor, as many have done, is disingenuous because she “was in a completely different part of the school” when students were gunned down.
Gonzalez, who has a buzz cut, called herself a Cuban bisexual in a piece she wrote for Harper’s Bazaar. She also declared that she likes to draw, paint, crochet, sew and embroider, cannot pick a favorite color and watches Netflix.
“But none of this matters anymore,” she wrote. “What matters is that the majority of American people have become complacent in a senseless injustice that occurs all around them.
“What matters is that most American politicians have become more easily swayed by money than by the people who voted them into office. What matters is that my friends are dead, along with hundreds upon hundreds of others all over the United States.”
The other student whom Gibson has criticized and ridiculed, David Hogg, has also been outspoken in taking on the National Rifle Association.
The incident that apparently angered Gibson involved an appearance Hogg made on CNN during which the Parkland student lashed out at NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch. He accused her of working with gun manufacturers to control Congress.
“She owns these congressmen. She can get them to do things,” Hogg said on CNN, adding, “She doesn’t care about these children’s lives.”
Gibson again took to Twitter, calling Hogg “a baldfaced liar. Dana Loesch ‘owns’ Congressmen? Completely absurd.”
Gibson pointed out that the NRA is not even among the top 50 lobbying organizations in terms of spending on campaigns.
Then he wrote, “Hogg doesn’t get a pass when he blatantly lies.”
Gibson, who has since made both his personal and campaign Twitter accounts private, has a history of retweeting rather incendiary comments, often from accounts in Maine that are stridently anti-immigrant.
Fogg said it is unfortunate Gibson is the only person who has come forward to seek the House seat. She said his comments are part of a trend toward “name-calling and disparagement” that bothers most residents.
“There are disaffected Republicans because of people like that,” Fogg said.
Gibson, retired from the U.S. Navy, has rarely hesitated to state his political opinions vehemently. For years, he has taken to social media to comment on immigration, defend conservative politicians and promote Republican policies.
Last month, he explained on Facebook after “the tragedy that occurred in Florida” there has been “a lot of misinformation, and flat out lies” circulated by “the liberal media and leftist anti-Second Amendment groups.”
As a life member of the NRA, he said he stands with the group’s efforts “to protect and preserve our Second Amendment rights,” which he insisted are “under attack.”
“The NRA and its members are being blamed for the Florida tragedy,” Gibson wrote. “Such blame is patently misdirected. The blame rests solely with the person who committed these murders.”
He said he does not trust “leftist politicians or the liberal media when they claim that no one wants to take your guns away. That’s exactly what they want to do. I don’t care what they say.”
Gibson said that if elected, he will “lead the charge in the protection and preservation of our constitutional rights and our Maine traditions against these attacks.”
Elaine Makas, chairwoman of the Androscoggin County Democratic Committee, applauded Gonzalez and Hogg for making themselves heard and refusing to back down.
“Anyone who was at Parkland was affected by the shooting — loss of friends, loss of feelings of security — but the Parkland students are far from victims,” she said. “They, unlike many of us, are not afraid to speak out against overly lax gun laws that allow an 18-year old with clearly documented problems to have access to a weapon of war.
“In addition, these students and others across the country are showing the courage to persevere, not letting the passage of time give us an excuse to ignore another needless tragedy.”
Party candidates have until Thursday to file petitions to claim a spot on the ballot. Independents can file until June 1.
The 57th District is represented by Stephen Wood, a Republican who cannot run for re-election because he is in his fourth term, the longest he can serve by law. His district includes Greene and Sabattus.
(Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)