Maine Republican who called gay candidate ‘Little Justine’ apologizes

Rep. Justin Chenette accepted a Republican party leader's apology for making anti-gay statements about the candidate.

Rep. Justin Chenette accepted a Republican party leader's apology for making anti-gay statements about the candidate. Dawn Ennis

A Maine Republican who made anti-gay comments about a local gay candidate in an email has apologized and will keep his county leadership position amid calls to resign, the Portland Press Herald reports.

The executive committee of the York County Republican Committee decided on Wednesday not to take action against local GOP chairman Jim Booth after he apologized to Democratic Senate candidate Justin Channette, who is openly gay.

Booth, frustrated that there were no Republicans running against Chenette at the time, sent an email soliciting legislative candidates in which he called Chenette “Little Justine” and wrote that there was “a lot of HATE for the Democratic nominee.” Chenette was the youngest openly gay legislator when was elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 2012 at age 21.

In a joint statement, members of the York County Republican Committee’s executive committee said that while Booth’s comments were a serious matter, they were satisfied with his apology:

While we strongly disapprove of the words and the tone Mr. Booth conveyed in his private email, we note that he has apologized directly to Rep. Chenette. We earlier this evening accepted his apology on behalf of the full York County Republican Committee. We do not take this lightly; we do not want this to distract from what has been a very successful candidate recruitment season. Our priority remains focused on our positive message to move Maine forward.

In his own statement, Booth said he made a mistake and hoped to move on, praising Chenette for accepting his apology “like the gentleman he is.” But Chenette says that the committee’s decision not to remove Booth from his leadership position sends a strong statement all its own.

“To me, this was a setback for the reasonable Republicans out there who say, ‘We need to be a more tolerant party and more inclusive party,’” Chenette told the Press Herald. “The signal, to me, is that these sorts of tactics are OK and that this type of hate-filled rhetoric will continue.”

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