The race for a state House seat in Maine got interesting on Thursday as a Democratic newcomer joined an uncontested race against a Republican candidate who made derogatory comments about two Parkland student activists who survived the mass shooting at their high school last month.
Eryn Gilchrist of Greene, Maine met the Thursday filing deadline to place her name on the ballot against Republican Leslie Gibson, who until then had been running unopposed. Gibson put himself in the spotlight earlier this month by verbally attacking the two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students on Twitter.
In her first tweet on her campaign account, Gilchrist wrote that Gibson’s comments about student Emma González were “a disgraceful embarrassment to our state and our country. Maine can do better.”
— Eryn Gilchrist (@eryngilchrist) March 14, 2018
Gilchrist told the Sun Journal that she decided to run for Maine’s 57th House District because she felt so “horrified and embarrassed” at the thought that Gibson might represent her. She had never anticipated running for political office.
“I would really have been happy to partake in representative democracy by voting,” Gilchrist, a 28-year-old who works for a medical device company, told the Sun Journal.
Seventeen people were killed and 15 others injured by alleged gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who is accused of opening fire on February 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School using an AR-15 style rifle that federal officials say he purchased legally almost a year ago.
The high school’s students, particularly González and David Hogg, have risen to national prominence in the aftermath of the shooting, giving impassioned, articulate pleas for legislation to ban assault weapons and curb the gun violence that has killed students on campuses across the country.
Their activism, however, has come at a cost. Just days after the massacre, baseless conspiracy theories began ricocheting across social media platforms falsely claiming the students were “crisis actors.”
Then Gibson, who is a life member the National Rifle Association (NRA), jumped into the fray. He took to Twitter to make derisive comments about González after seeing a report in The Hill about how González had surpassed the NRA and its top spokesperson in Twitter followers, according to HuffPost.
“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, of Sabattus, Maine, wrote on Twitter.
In the February issue of Harper’s Bazaar González described herself as an 18-year-old Cuban bisexual who lost friends in the massacre, and she wrote about the motivations behind her activism.
“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,” wrote González.
Gibson subsequently apologized: “I would like to extend to you my most sincere apology for how I addressed you. It was wrong and unacceptable,” Gibson said in a tweet. “You are doing work that is important to you. I would like to extend my hand in friendship and understanding to you.”
Gibson also went after Hogg, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the NRA.
On Twitter, Gibson attacked Hogg, calling him “moron” and accusing him of being a “baldfaced liar” after Hogg said NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch “owns” members of Congress.
The backlash against Gibson has been swift and intense.
One Republican state senator from Maine, Sen. Amy Volk (R), called on Gibson to drop out of the race” and wrote on social media that Gibson also has attacked her online. The Sun Journal also reported that the chairs of the Maine Democratic Party and the Androscoggin County Democratic Committee said Gibson should withdraw from the race.
And Hogg also took to Twitter yesterday to rally his “friends in Maine” to challenge Gibson in the-then uncontested race.
“Who wants to run against this hate loving politician he’s is running UNOPPOSED RUN AGAINST HIM I don’t care what party JUST DO IT,” wrote Hogg.
Hey freinds in Maine! Who wants to run against this hate loving politician he's is running UNOPPOSED RUN AGAINST HIM I don't care what party JUST DO IT. https://t.co/vRR7p1ZHKf
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) March 14, 2018
Gilchrist, a Connecticut native and a 2013 graduate of Bates College, earned praise right out of the gate from elected officials in Maine, according to the Sun Journal.
“We could not be happier to have Eryn run,” House Speaker Sara Gideon said in a prepared statement. “She is a concerned member of her community who cares about the future of her neighbors — and, like many other Democrats across Maine, she’s now stepping up to help them.”