A Republican state senator said Tuesday that a controversial Republican candidate from Sabattus should not be running for office following his derogatory comments about two Florida students who spoke out against gun violence after a mass shooting at their high school last month.

Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, said in social media posts that Maine House candidate Leslie Gibson also has attacked Volk online. Volk has called for “respect and kindness” from lawmakers.

Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, co-chairs the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Volk is one of the few Republicans to speak out against Gibson, but the chairs of the Maine Democratic Party and the Androscoggin County Democratic Committee both said Tuesday that Gibson should withdraw from the race. Democrats have yet to come up with a candidate in District 57, however, and they face a Thursday deadline.

Gibson, who declined to comment, called one student from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a “skinhead lesbian” and another “a bald-faced liar” in a series of Twitter posts recently.

Late Monday, Gibson issued an apology on Twitter, directed at Emma Gonzalez, the 18-year-old girl he criticized.

“Emma, my name is Les Gibson from Maine. I would like to extend to you my most sincere apology for how I addressed you,” Gibson wrote. “It was wrong and unacceptable.”

He noted that she is “doing work that is important to you” and added, “I would like to extend my hand in friendship and understanding to you.”

Gonzalez has not responded. She is helping organize political protests by students following the shootings Feb. 14 that killed 17 students and staff.

“The people of Androscoggin County deserve better than someone who lobs disgusting attacks at children who have survived the unimaginable,” said Elaine Makas, the county Democratic chairwoman. “We should come together to say enough is enough, to reject this bigotry and hatred, and to show that this type of ideology has no place in Maine – but especially in the State House.”

Jason Lavoie, a Republican House contender in Lewiston, said it “is not up to me to decide for Les what he should do, if anything, about his race going forward.”

Lavoie said that before making a decision, Gibson ought to pray “and see what he thinks is the best course of action for his family and his community.”

“We have to be careful to note that Les is a human before he is a politician,” said Lavoie, one of three contenders for the District 61 seat.

State Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said in a prepared statement, “Regardless of our politics, we should all be able to agree that what happened to the students in Parkland was a terrible tragedy.”

The students there “deserve our respect and our kindness, and they deserve to have their voices heard – not to be disparaged,” he said.

Bartlett called Gibson’s comments “disgusting and not representative of Maine values.”

Bartlett said he hopes state House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and the Maine Republican Party “will draw the line at attacking school shooting survivors, denounce Gibson and call on him to leave the race.”

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