Leslie Gibson is calling it quits.
The controversial Republican has officially dropped out of Maine’s 57th Congressional District race after being universally condemned for calling Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez a “skinhead lesbian.” A day after Democrat Eryn Gilchrist announced she’d be running against him, Gibson claimed that taking his name out of contention was the “best thing for everybody.”
“I am not walking away with my head hung low,” he told the Lewiston Press-Herald on Friday. “I am walking away with my head held high.”
The little-known conservative became a national bête noire overnight following a tweetstorm targeting the Florida students who survived the Feb. 14 attack, in which 17 of their classmates were killed. Gibson claimed it was disingenuous for Gonzalez, a bisexual Latinx activist who has helped lead a national conversation on gun control, to call herself a survivor given that she was “in a completely different part” of the school during the shooting.
“There is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me and there is nothing that she has to say unless you’re a frothing at the mouth moonbat,” he said of Gonzalez, who is president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Gibson also called her classmate David Hogg a “bald-faced liar” for his criticism of NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch. During a recent CNN appearance, Hogg claimed she has Congress in her pocket.
“She doesn’t care about these children’s lives,” he concluded.
After Gibson’s tweets went viral, the student-journalist was one of the first to call for a challenger in the Maine 57th race. The Republican had previously been running unopposed. Within days, Gilchristwho has never held public office and works at a medical device companyannounced her candidacy.
“I never thought I would run for office, and I was perfectly content with just remaining a member of the community, but after reading Mr. Gibson’s comments I thought that the people of Greene and Sabattus deserved a representative who will respect people and try to work through their differences to make our lives better,” the upstart Democrat said in a statement released Thursday.
“That’s what I pledge to do if I am lucky enough to be elected, and I look forward to working hard over the next several months to earn the trust and support of people throughout my community,” Gilchrist added.
On Friday, it was revealed that Gibson would have another opponent in what once seemed an easy path to victory: Thomas Martin Jr., a contractor who previously served in the served in the state Senate. The 52-year-old sat in the legislature for a single term before being defeated by Democrat Colleen Lachowicz in 2012.
Martin claimed that when read Gibson’s tweets, he heard the call to re-enter public service.
“After those recent unfortunate comments, I couldn’t sit back,” the conservative told the Sun-Journal daily newspaper, before adding that “there’s enough division in our state and country already.”
With no other candidates filing before Thursday’s deadline, Martin and Gilchrist will face off in the November general election.
Gibson had previously apologized for the inflammatory remarks, claiming they were reflective of his years spent in the military and the oath he took as a member of the armed forces to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
“Because of this, I am very passionate about protecting our constitutional rights from those who seek their elimination,” he claimed.
This wasn’t the first time Gibson had come under fire for the content he posted on social media, as the Press Herald notes. The U.S. Navy veteran is known to retweet anti-immigrant rhetoric from far-right Twitter accounts. In a February Facebook post, he claimed the Parkland shooting had been distorted by “a lot of misinformation and flat out lies” promoted by “the liberal media and leftist anti-Second Amendment groups.”
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