Update: Since the publication of this story, Leslie Gibson, the Republican who made the offensive comments, has dropped out of the race.
The Trump Administration has been horrible for democracy but great for democratic activism, as resisters nationwide have worked their collective asses off to elect Democrats everywhere. The victories of Doug Jones in Alabama and Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania were triumphs for grassroots campaigning, especially given that both won in deeply red areas by either a few thousand or a few hundred votes. On the local level, we witnessed a triumph in Virginia, as a slew of phenomenal Democratic candidates, some of whom had no political experience prior to running were ushered into the House of Delegates. Now, another storm is brewing in Maine’s 57th district, where Republican military veteran Leslie Gibson had prepared to run unopposed for the seat in his home state’s house of representatives until this week.
In another year, this would be a completely ordinary race that nobody outside Maine would comment on, but Gibson, a lifelong NRA member, got attention this week when he defamed the Parkland Kids on Twitter. He called survivor David Hogg a “baldfaced liar” and a “moron” for suggesting that the NRA’s Dana Loesch owns congressmen. Even worse were his attacks towards Emma González, the openly bisexual, Cuban-American eighteen-year-old who popularized the phrase “We call BS” and has since surpassed the NRA in Twitter followers. When he learned of this in a Hill article, Gibson tweeted, “There is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me and there is nothing that she has to say unless you’re frothing at the mouth moonbat.” He even claimed it was “disingenuous” to call her a survivor because “she was in a completely different part of the school.” His remarks received immediate outcry, with Hogg tweeting the following:
Hey freinds in Maine! Who wants to run against this hate loving politician he's is running UNOPPOSED RUN AGAINST HIM I don't care what party JUST DO IT. https://t.co/vRR7p1ZHKf
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) March 14, 2018
Gibson deleted the tweets, made his account private, and has since apologized, saying he is “very passionate about protecting our constitutional rights from those who seek their elimination. It was not appropriate to single out the Parkland students, but I stand firm in my defense of our constitutional rights.”
This wasn’t enough for Eryn Gilchrist, a twenty-eight-year-old Maine native who works at a medical device company. Although Gilchrist admits that she never saw herself as a candidate for anything, she was so horrified by Gibson’s remarks that she spent the week petitioning for signatures to get on the ballot. With only a few days to get them, she received enough support to file papers challenging Gibson on the day of the deadline. Further explaining her decision in a statement released by the Democratic Party, she said:
“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 [the towns represented by ME-57] deserved a representative who will respect people and try to work through their differences to make our lives better…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, who has already received the enthusiastic backing of Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon and Maine Democratic Party Chair Phil Bartlett, represents the grassroots activism that has animated the Resistance since Trump took office. Like all of us, she’s deeply horrified that Republicans have normalized such heinous sentiments for so long, and wants to do something about it. She, the Parkland Kids, and the new Virginia delegates embody Margaret Mead’s famous quote that “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” Their collective voice sends a loud and powerful message to all in the GOP, elected or otherwise: none of you are safe.
In short, the 2018 midterms are going to look like Act Three of Mad Max: Fury Road, when Charlize Theron leads the women (and Tom Hardy) back to the Citadel to destroy their oppressors. And if you love that movie as much as I do, you should be real excited for the Blue Wave.