Who is Eryn Gilchrist, the 28-year-old challenging the Maine Republican who mocked Parkland students?

Eryn Gilchrist, a health care worker, is challenging Republican Maine House candidate Leslie Gibson, who was previously running unopposed. (Photo: Maine Democratic Party)
Eryn Gilchrist, a health care worker, is challenging Republican Maine House candidate Leslie Gibson, who was previously running unopposed. (Photo: Maine Democratic Party)

On Thursday, Maine Democrats announced a new candidate for the state’s House District 57 in Maine race in November 2018, a 28-year-old whose social media presence is nonexistent and for whom details are scarce.

Eryn Gilchrist, a health care worker from Lewiston, Maine, announced just before Thursday’s filing deadline that she would be the one to challenge the previously unopposed Republican candidate, Leslie Gibson, after Gibson used Twitter to attack two Parkland, Fla., high school students who have become prominent faces of the gun control movement. Gilchrist told the Sun Journal that she felt “horrified and embarrassed” at the thought of Gibson representing her, so she decided to run.

In Gibson’s attacks on Twitter from his now-deleted account, he called 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez a “skinhead lesbian” and David Hogg, another student who survived the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people, a “bald-faced liar,” after the students criticized the National Rifle Association and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch for “owning” members of Congress. Yet, new candidate Gilchrist is a ghost on Twitter, as well as on other social media — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or otherwise. (There is one Twitter account not personally managed by Gilchrist, but by a “group of committed folks dedicated to electing Eryn Gilchrist.”)

The only public statements Gilchrist has made since announcing her candidacy is one that was published on NBC News“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. 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.”

Unlike a modern political campaign that includes vast social media outreach and glimpses into a candidate’s life, information about Gilchrist is scant (granted, her candidacy was only just announced on March 15). According to a school directory search, Gilchrist was an English student at Bates College and graduated in the class of 2013. Gilchrist penned an English fiction thesis, “The Sharpening of Carlton Beavers,” which she read to an audience at a school summit celebrating student works.

The faculty moderator, Robert Farnsworth, a senior lecturer at Bates College, oversaw Gilchrist’s thesis reading along with those of four other students, and says of the candidate, “I’m struggling to remember if we had class together. We probably did, but my remembrance of her as a writer was uniformly positive; she was quite ambitious and energetic. There was real fizz in what she wrote as I’m remembering.”

While there’s plenty of chatter about Gilchrist’s run, there’s little information about the candidate’s policy beliefs and whether they align strictly with those of the Maine Democratic Party, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to NBC News, the congressional district in which Gilchrist is running is currently represented by Stephen Wood, a Republican who has reached his term limit and thus cannot run for reelection. Hillary Clinton won Maine’s statewide vote and the First Congressional District in the 2016 presidential election, but only by a slim margin. Donald Trump won Maine’s Second Congressional District.

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