When Leslie Gibson sent out a few tweets last week, he had no idea how many people would wind up seeing them.

The Republican from Sabattus who is running unopposed for the Maine House of Representatives called one student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, “a skinhead lesbian” and another “a bald-faced liar.”

He took flak for his comments online – not unusual for him, given the strident social media presence he’s had for years – but nothing like the reaction he got this week when a news story about his posts caught the attention of people who live far from the 57th District.

Emma Gonzalez, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student targeted in a Twitter post by Maine State House candidate Leslie Gibson.

Ty Vassil, who responded to the school shooting in Parkland last month as operations chief for Margate-Coconut Creek Fire Rescue, said Wednesday that he is “ashamed for the good folks in Maine” who could be represented by Gibson.

Vassil said that Gibson’s “unnecessary and unfortunate commentary” is “a great example of what is wrong in our country.”

Closer to home, a Republican incumbent from Auburn took issue with Gibson as well.


Rep. Bruce Bickford posted a message on Facebook that said Gibson’s commentary “is not an example of the Republican Party. I cannot and will not support this person! So sad!!”

The Maine Democratic Party lashed out, as well.

The party, which says it may have a candidate willing to challenge Gibson by Thursday’s 5 p.m. deadline to file campaign papers, said that while many around the country are denouncing Gibson, “there is a group of people in Maine who have remained shamefully silent: Republican leaders.”

In a prepared statement, the Democratic state chairman, Phil Bartlett, questioned why Gov. Paul LePage and the Republican gubernatorial contenders have remained mum on the issue.

“Regardless of where someone falls along the political spectrum, we should all be able to agree that Les Gibson’s comments are reprehensible and deserving of our denunciation,” Bartlett said.

David Hogg talks about his experiences at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High when a gunman opened fire and killed 17 students and faculty in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.

The Republican Party has not responded to requests for comment this week, though state Sen. Amy Volk, a Republican from Scarborough, has denounced Gibson.


“It shouldn’t be hard to condemn hate and clearly and unequivocally say that it has no place in our state – especially if you want to lead it,” Bartlett said. “Today, we’re once again calling on Republican leaders to speak out against Gibson and his shameful comments.”

Vassil said his children “lost friends and mentors” when 14 students and three staff members were killed in Parkland on Feb. 14.

He said the students who have spoken out, including Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, the two Gibson cited, “are outstanding citizens.”

Image detail of Twitter account associated with Leslie Gibson.

“Emma Gonzalez is a beautiful example of what is right with the up-and-coming generation,” Vassil said.

When he was questioned about his words on Twitter by a reporter, Gibson wrote directly to Gonzalez to extend “my most sincere apology.”

He described his tweets as “wrong and unacceptable” and offered his hand “in friendship and understanding.”

Gibson, who remains the sole candidate in the race for the House seat from Sabbatus and Greene, has not had a response from Gonzalez.

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