State GOP rebukes Collins’ primary challenger for Facebook comments about Michaud, Mandela

Erick Bennett, a staunch conservative who signaled his intention to run against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in the GOP primary next year, drew the stern rebuke from the state’s party chairman on Friday after several incendiary comments by Bennett began circulating on social media.

Here’s a sampling of the posts, taken from Erick Bennett’s Facebook page. Here’s the first, where he refers to U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud as a derogatory term.

closet homo comment

(FWIW, Michaud has a 95 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign.)

The comment drew some criticism from his Facebook friends, but Bennett doubled down on it. The following photos are not the whole dialogue, just a couple of relevant comments. I’ve also redacted the names of people who are not public officials.

Michaud comment explanation

More Michaud comment explanation

The would-be candidate (he’s yet to file any official paperwork, so far as I can find), also took aim at the Nelson Mandela, comparing the recently deceased South African leader to Joseph Stalin.

Mandela

He also compared apartheid — the system of laws used to subjugate nonwhites in South Africa, fought by Mandela — to … something about President Barack Obama. It’s unclear exactly what he’s referencing.obama apartheid 1

On Friday, I showed the posts above to Maine’s Republican Party chairman, Rick Bennett. He said sharing a last name with the primary hopeful has already become a headache.

“I’m happy to have a chance to discuss this because the similarities of our names have led some people say, ‘Is this guy related to you?’” Rick Bennett said. “I can say categorically he’s not related to me in any way, by family or viewpoint. I find those comments personally reprehensible, and I’ve heard people from across the political spectrum in Maine who share their abhorrence with those views. … They do not represent the views of the Republican Party.”

Rick Bennett also said he didn’t take Erick Bennett’s primary campaign very seriously.

“I would be surprised if he gets a sufficient number of Republicans in Maine to sign nomination papers to put him on the ballot,” he said. He added that the job would only become hard as “more people understand about his viewpoints and his character issues.”

I tried to contact Bennett today, but he didn’t return my calls. If his Facebook posts are any indication, though, I think he’d stand by the comments above. He defends his remarks against others in the comments under his posts. For now, his profile is public, so if you want to see more, you can click here.

Erick Bennett heads the Maine Equal Rights Center, a Constitutional rights group that fought against the successful ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012.

The group is gathering signatures to get referendums on the 2014 ballot that would have the state opt out of national Common Core education standards, make concealed carrying of handguns legal without a permit, a require a parent’s consent for a girl 16 or younger to get an abortion.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.