A Republican candidate for the Maine state legislature, who lobbed personal attacks against two Parkland students, has dropped out of the race amid continued outrage over his comments. Leslie Gibson announced his decision to withdraw himself as a candidate for Maine's House of Representatives on Friday, calling it "the best thing for everybody."
"I am not walking away with my head hung low," The Portland Press Herald reported Gibson said. "I am walking away with my head held high."
Gibson came under severe criticism earlier this month after he took to Twitter to attack two student survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In a tweet responding to news that Stoneman Douglas student and gun control activist Emma González had amassed more followers than the National Rifle Association (NRA), Gibson called González a "skin head lesbian."
"There is nothing about that skin head lesbian that impresses me and there is nothing that she has to say unless you're a frothing at the mouth moonbat," The Hill reported Gibson wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted. (Gibson made his Twitter account private after the controversy.) In a separate tweet, Gibson reportedly argued González should not be considered a "survivor" as she "was in a completely different part of the school" compared to where the shooter was. Gibson also attacked David Hogg, another Parkland student who has taken a vocal stance on gun control since the shooting, calling him "a baldfaced liar," according to The Hill.
As outrage over his comments grew, Gibson attempted to apologize to González. "I would like to extend to you my most sincere apology for how I addressed you," New York Magazine reported he had said in a tweet to González. "It was wrong and unacceptable. You are doing work that is important to you. I would like to extend my hand in friendship and understanding to you."
Gibson later told the Press Herald that while "it was not appropriate to single out the Parkland students" he stood firm in his "defense of our constitutional rights." The paper also reported that, in a Facebook post published shortly after the Florida shooting, Gibson had said he would continue to stand with the NRA as a lifetime member "to protect and preserve our Second Amendment rights." He characterized those rights as being "under attack."
Although Gibson was initially running unopposed, his tweets spurred both Democrat Eryn Gilchrist and Republican Thomas Martin Jr. to enter the race. (Hogg had called for people to run against Gibson, tweeting March 14 "RUN AGAINST HIM I don't care what party JUST DO IT.")
In a statement to the Sun Journal, Gilchrist said she was "horrified and embarrassed" at the idea of Gibson representing her in the Maine state legislature after his comments about the Parkland students emerged. Martin has also said he felt he "couldn't sit back" after Gibson's Twitter attacks came to light.
According to Main Public, Gibson said Friday that he'd discussed his decision to withdraw with his friends and family as well as with some of his Republican colleagues. In fact, Gibson said he'd had a "very positive conversation" with Martin and that his dropping from the race would be "the best decision for myself, my family, the Maine GOP and for candidate Tom Martin."
Gilchrist and Martin will run against each other for a District 57's seat in Maine's House of Representatives in a general midterm election Nov. 6. The district's current representative, Republican Stephen Wood, in unable to run for re-election due to maxing out his term limits.