In the weeks since the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, elected officials on both sides of the aisle have been grappling with how best to respond. One state representative from Maine, however, took a startling approach, and now he's paying a price ― Leslie Gibson, who attacked the Parkland shooting survivors, now has a challenger for his seat, for which he previously ran unopposed: Greene, Maine, resident Eryn Gilchrist.
Update: Gibson has dropped out of the Maine House race. “I am not walking away with my head hung low," he announced on Friday, according to the Portland Press Herald. "I am walking away with my head held high."
Earlier: Although you can't actually see Gibson's original tweets anymore (he deleted them after they went viral), what he said was widely reported. As The Cut detailed this week, he called one of the most visible survivors of the shooting a "skinhead lesbian," and another one a "bald-faced liar."
"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," Gibson said of Stoneman Douglas senior Emma Gonzalez, who's been a vocal activist in the weeks since the shooting. He also reportedly called David Hogg, another high-profile survivor and activist, a "bald-faced liar" in another since-deleted tweet.
After Gibson tweeted out those provocative insults, Hogg himself responded by urging someone to run against him, noting that the Republican state representative was unopposed. And now, 28-year-old Gilchrist has answered that call.
Gibson, for his part, has since apologized for the wildly offensive tweets, reportedly tweeting that his words were "wrong and unacceptable."
"I would like to extend to you my most sincere apology for how I addressed you,” he said. “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's Twitter account has since been deleted. According to Gilchrist, she never planned on running for elected office, but was so "horrified and embarrassed," according to The Cut, that she decided to jump into the race.
In a statement released on Thursday, after she filed to run in advance of a 5:00 p.m. deadline, Gilchrist explained what she hoped to accomplish by running.
"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,” Gilchrist said in the statement, as detailed by NBC News.
“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.”
The Democratic speaker of the House in the Maine legislature, Rep. Sara Gideon, has reportedly welcomed Gilchrist to the race with enthusiasm.
"We could not be happier to have Eryn run,” she reportedly said in a statement on Thursday. “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.”
It remains to be seen whether Gilchrist will find any traction to actually challenge Gibson for the seat. Despite the inflammatory nature of his tweets, he was previously running unopposed for a reason. During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the county by slightly more than nine points. However, given the outcomes of recent congressional elections ― such as Conor Lamb's victory over Rob Saccone in Pennsylvania ― a nine-point swing in favor of a Democratic candidate is by no means impossible, and Gilchrist has decided to give it a go.