The emergence of a Democratic candidate for House District 57 in Androscoggin County has been a fundraising boon to a local party committee, but it’s not clear yet how or if that money could help the candidate.

The Lewiston Democratic Committee this week launched a fundraising page on the national website ActBlue. The page was set up to oppose the candidacy of the Republican candidate, Leslie Gibson, who posted offensive statements about the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting on social media.

Gibson withdrew his candidacy on Friday, after a firestorm of criticism about his statements.

The comments made by Gibson, which included referring to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez as a “skinhead lesbian,” have made national news and been widely condemned.

Gibson also called her classmate David Hogg a “bald-faced liar” and a “moron.” Hogg responded by pleading on social media for someone to enter the race and challenge Gibson.

When Eryn Gilchrist, a 28-year-old Democrat, said she would, interest in defeating Gibson grew. As of Friday afternoon, the fundraising page had raised more than $130,000.

Kiernan Majerus-Collins, who chairs the Lewiston Democrats and started the page, said donations started to pick up dramatically after Gilchrist announced that she would challenge Gibson, who had been running unopposed.

“I’m absolute stunned by the response,” Majerus-Collins, a student at Bates College in Lewiston, said Friday.

The money will not go directly to Gilchrist’s campaign because she is running as a Clean Election candidate. Under state law, that means she must gather at least 60 qualifying contributions of $5 to qualify for the ballot. It also allows her to collect up to $1,000 in seed money. The rest of her campaign expenses will be publicly funded.

Majerus-Collins said he doesn’t know how the sudden influx of money, which has come from all over the country, will be used.

“There are strict rules when it comes to campaign funding and it will be important for us to maintain a strict ethical firewall,” he said.

Even if Gilchrist isn’t helped directly by the money, it helps her party.

Gilchrist, a Connecticut native and 2013 graduate of Bates College, didn’t expect to launch a candidacy, but Gibson’s comments left her “horrified and embarrassed” at the thought of him representing her district, which includes the mostly rural towns of Sabattus and Greene and is reliably conservative.

In addition to Gilchrist, another Republican entered the race this week to challenge Gibson in the primary.

Thomas Martin, a former state senator, said he felt compelled to run to restore civility to the race.

Some individual Republicans have denounced Gibson’s comments, but the Maine Republican Party has been silent. Others, including Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard, have stood by Gibson, who is a member of the Androscoggin County Republicans.

Gibson, a Navy veteran, has since scrubbed his social media pages of controversial comments.

He also apologized to Gonzalez on Twitter.

“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.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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