Maine Republican candidate for the 1st congressional district Ed Thelander drew swift, harsh backlash after comments he made at a lobstermen's rally left onlookers shocked.
Thelander who is challenging incumbent Democratic Representative Chellie Pingree in the 2022 midterms took the stage in Portland, Maine on Wednesday, October 12.
Thelander tried to jump on the opportunity to garner support by attacking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and controversial regulations enacted with a stated purpose of protecting endangered right whales.
The entire incumbent congressional delegation from Maine—independent Senator Angus King, GOP Senator Susan Collins, Pingree and 2nd district Representative Jared Golden—questioned and criticized NOAA and the science of the regulations.
The agency admits the regulations are based only on theories with no direct evidence as much is still not known about ocean based migratory populations.
The oceans are vast and migrating populations are difficult to locate let alone study in depth.
Because the regulations were unpopular with Pingree as well, Thelander appeared compelled to make his attack on the regulations more aggressive to distinguish himself from her.
The Republican nominee decided to tell the crowd:
"NOAA wants to rape you and your family."
"And they are saying pick a child."
Thelander criticized Pingree's efforts to work with NOAA to adjust or eliminate the lobstering regulations.
"You don’t negotiate with a rapist, and that’s what’s happening."
Thelander offered no alternative to working with the agency beyond calling NOAA rapists.
The crowd reacted with relative silence to Thelander's attempt to rouse them by invoking child rape. He did receive applause when he finished his full speech.
Pingree and Thelander were slated to meet that night in a debate hosted by Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) and the Portland Press Herald.
Thelander used the opportunity to apologize.
You can see NEWS CENTER Maine coverage of his comments and apology here:
During the debate, Pingree also pointed out Thelander offered only outrage without solutions.
She said her GOP opponent's comments were not productive to altering or eliminating regulations impacting lobstering in Maine. She added Thelander dragged the discussion “down into the gutter.”
Thelander blamed his "passion" for his choice to minimize childhood rape to rally a crowd.
"My comments were over the top and I apologize for that."
"I’m very passionate about it. I love those families."
"I’m seeing the struggles they have and nothing has been done about it."
Pingree disputed Thelander’s claim Maine officials fighting regulations by working directly with the regulatory agency amounted to doing nothing.
The Maine Democrat—who lives on North Haven Island where access is by ferry and fishing industry history is front and center—also fired back:
“Don’t say I’m not passionate about it."
Advocates for survivors of sexual violence also condemned Thelander's choices.
Director of Prevention, Outreach and Education at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Casey Corcoran told NECN News:
"The use of the term rape invoking children was meant to be shocking and sexual violence is shocking, but we minimize the real impacts of sexual violence when we make these false comparisons."
"This isn’t helpful."
"I would be interested to see how [Thelander] takes the learning from this incident and uses it."
"If a candidate wants to understand the impact of these sorts of comments on survivors of sexual violence, they should take the time to understand what their concerns are and what these impacts are because from what we know from working with survivors at BARCC, this minimizes their experience and it makes them believe that our representatives don’t understand the issue."
Maine Republican analyst Phil Harriman told NEWS CENTER Maine Thelander's words were inappropriate and a mistake even if they drew attention to Thelander and lobstering.
"It’s unfortunate it was even said."
"[P]eople expect those in public office to represent their constituents in a way that is diplomatic and respectful."
This isn’t the first time Thelander decided make outrageous statements or lie to get attention.
The Republican also spouted the transphobic false claim schools were providing litterboxes for students.
You can see footage of Thelander here:
The public also found Thelander's judgment poor.
Maineiacs referred to Thelander as a "flatlander"—coastal Maine slang with a similar meaning to "carpetbagger"...
...and pointed out Thelander was desperate to generate a space for himself on a purely bipartisan issue.
Pingree faces off against Thelander in the 2022 midterms slated for Tuesday, November 8.
To check your voter registration online, you can use the Vote.org tool here: