Maine Rep. Lawrence Lockman’s decades-long history of extremism

Rep. Lockman at a press conference - from WABI

Rep. Lockman at a press conference – from WABI

Representative Lawrence Lockman of Amherst is in his first term in office, but he has quickly established himself as a vocal leader of the GOP’s tea party wing. He led the group of 26 Representatives who recently launched a ridiculous attack on House Speaker Mark Eves, he was one of only 21 Representatives who stood with Governor Paul LePage and voted against the attempt to restore revenue sharing to Maine towns and he introduced and fought for two new anti-union “right to work” bills this session despite the fact that similar legislation couldn’t pass even when Republicans held majorities in both chambers.

He has also consistently been one of the loudest defenders of some of Governor LePage’s most controversial actions and positions.

It isn’t just his hard-right stances that have brought attention to Lockman, but the harsh language he employs. His comments on the House floor, to the media and online are often caustic and are usually aimed squarely at Democrats, whom he regularly accuses of theft and tyranny.

He recently, for instance, declared that “liberals use poor people as human shields to advance the professional Left’s self-serving extremist agenda.”

Compromise, according to Lockman, is “often an exercise in putting lipstick on a pig, and only delays the inevitable day of reckoning.”

In some ways, Lockman bears a resemblance to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Both were elected in 2012, later than most of their tea party colleagues, and both seem intent on making up for lost time by causing as much gridlock and acrimony as possible. Lockman, however, has a record of supporting causes and making statements that are far more extreme than anything Ted Cruz has done.

While Lockman is new to the Legislature, he certainly isn’t new to Maine politics. He has a long and checkered history that has seen him reinvent himself time and again as the champion of a series of losing conservative causes.

In 1981, Lockman founded a group called Maine Patriots (almost 30 years before Amy Hale would form a tea party group by the same name) and began espousing an extreme-right conspiracy theory that federal and state income taxes were voluntary and tax enforcement by the IRS was unconstitutional. He had stopped paying his own taxes in 1975 and gave speeches and held meetings urging others to follow his lead.

lockman_dracula_86_bdnEven a hearing in federal tax court in Boston in 1983 during which his arguments were found to be “frivolous” and he was found  to owe more than $17,000 didn’t seem to slow him down. In a 1984 interview with the Lewiston Daily Sun he declared that “according to the Constitution of the United States, the federal government has no authority to force people to pay income taxes” and expressed his admiration for tax resister Gordon Kahl, a Posse Comitatus leader who had recently died in a shootout with law enforcement after he and his men killed two U.S. Marshalls.

Lockman would continue refuse to pay his taxes and rail against the “tyranny and abuse of the IRS and the state” in letters to newspapers and in seminars he gave around the state over the next few years, claiming that “nothing less than the future of freedom in America is at stake.”

In 1986, Lockman dressed up like Dracula and stood outside the Federal Building in Bangor in order to protest the “vampire-nature” of the IRS and its “tyranny and police-state methods of tax collection.”

In the mid-to-late eighties, Lockman changed his focus away from avoiding taxes and towards spreading lies about the AIDS epidemic. In 1987, he is quoted in the Bangor Daily News as implying that HIV and AIDS could be spread by bed sheets and mosquitoes.

Later that year, he fought against a local school policy allowing students with HIV to participate in the classroom and engaged in more fearmongering, saying “It’s peculiar that the government is telling health care workers that surfaces contaminated with bodily fluids should be thoroughly disinfected, but at the same time they are telling us that toilet seats have some magical property that they are able to resist viruses.”

“In the overwhelming majority of cases, people are dying because of their addiction to sodomy,” Lockman wrote in a 1987 letter to the editor to the Lewiston Daily Sun arguing against funding for AIDS education. “They are dying because progressive, enlightened, tolerant people in politics and in medicine have assured the public that the practice of sodomy is a legitimate alternative lifestyle, rather than a perverted, depraved crime against humanity.”

It was during this period that Lockman first ran for the Legislature, challenging a young state representative named Mike Michaud (now, of course, a U.S. Congressman running to unseat LePage as governor) for the District 134 seat in both 1986 and 1988. Lockman pledged to make health policy on AIDS and “the pervasive influence of militant, politically-organized homosexuals” major campaign issues. He would also call for an end to Maine’s income tax, deeming it “repugnant to American values.”

lockman_michaud_88_BDNIn his 1988 race, Lockman attacked Michaud for supporting an anti-discrimination bill, calling it a “devious, back-door attempt to make ‘sexual orientation’ (read homosexuality) a protected category under Maine’s harassment law.”

According to House Speaker John Martin, Lockman also distributed a brochure with a “blatant racist reference,” linking Michaud and Maine AFL-CIO President Charles O’Leary with Jesse Jackson.

Lockman lost the 1988 race 2,438-639.

In the early 1990s, Lockman was active on the issue of abortion. He became a director of the Pro Life Education Association and in 1990 was quoted as saying “If a woman has (the right to abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

Also in 1990, he attempted to break the union at the Passadumkeag Stud Mill where he worked, a move that was voted down 81 to 18.

That same year he claimed that a CBS special about a gay teenage boy was “blatant homosexual propaganda” and “a recruitment tool for the militant homosexual movement”

“Clearly the practice of sodomy is learned behavior, and those addicted to this form of biologically-insane sex are at high risk for all manner of serious medical problems,” wrote Lockman in a letter to the Bangor Daily News about the program.

In 1994, he declared that the Christian Civic League and its former leader Jack Wyman weren’t forceful enough in confronting “the two cutting edge moral issues of our time – abortion and the normalization of homosexuality.”

In the mid 90s, Lockman turned his attention to resisting the advancement of gay rights. As Vice President and spokesperson for Concerned Maine Families, he helped lead a 1995 referendum attempting to ban the protection of gays and lesbians from discrimination. The initiative was meant to prevent the state and Maine towns from following the lead of Portland, which had passed a gay rights ordinance in 1993. The referendum lost narrowly only after then-Governor Angus King (now a U.S. Senator) appeared in a TV ad calling for tolerance. (The Portland Press Herald at the time called King’s action a “risky move” and a dive “from the safe political mainstream into the center of a whirlpool.” Lockman’s group said it would be the end of King’s political career.)

In advocating for the initiative, Lockman downplayed examples of anti-gay bias and crimes against gays and lesbians and claimed that the issue was “about militant homosexual demands for special status.” He insisted that the anti-discrimination measures were part of a secret plan for gay affirmative action.

“You can bet the rent money they will demand that employers set up goals and timetables to achieve 10 percent homosexual representation in the workforce and in government contracts,” Lockman wrote in an op-ed in the Lewiston Sun Journal.

During the campaign, Maine Won’t discriminate pointed out that Lockman owed $51,600 to the IRS from his decade as an anti-tax conspiracy theorist.

In 1997, Lockman and CMF would spearhead a state ban on same-sex marriage. Their initiative was passed by large majorities in both the House and Senate, but Governor King refused to sign it, saying “I believe this bill has very little to do with marriage and nothing to do with love.” It went into law without his signature.

“We’ve learned this week just how deeply Gov. King has burrowed into the pockets of gay activists,” was Lockman’s reply.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Lockman spoke out against anti-bullying and diversity initiatives in Maine schools, calling them “politically-correct liberal fascism,” and warning that “The thought police have arrived. Their mission is to serve as the eyes and ears of Big Sister.”

The “homosexual rights movement” is engaged in “a covert scheme to use federal crime-control funds to transform Maine’s public schools into gay-activist indoctrination centers,” claimed Lockman.

He would insist that the real bias and hatred was coming from “gay activists” who would “move quickly to bully and browbeat anyone who dares to challenge their lust for power.”

Lockman with Gov. LePage, from official website

Lockman then quieted down a bit over the next several years, popping up occasionally to attack gay rights or taxes in letters to the editor or in his column on the As Maine Goes web forum (now missing from the site), until his re-emergence as a State Representative in 2012.

This history is far from complete. It relies heavily on only those statements and actions that made it into certain editions of newspapers in Maine that happened to be archived and available online. I’m sure there’s a lot more to Lockman’s record for the dedicated investigator to unearth.

I don’t believe that a few mistakes in the past should prevent anyone from engaging in government, but Lockman has a consistent history of words and actions on rape, AIDS, taxes, education and gay and lesbian Mainers that should prompt us all, especially the voters who elected him, to have some significant concerns about his role as a legislator and public figure. At the very least, his history of extremism should be kept in mind when evaluating his current actions as a lawmaker.

This look back also illustrates that the radicalism and anger that we now ascribe to the tea party has existed in corners of our political environment for decades. The current conservative movement has only magnified it and brought it closer to the levers of power.

Rep. Lockman did not respond to a request for comment.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike writes about Maine politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center, writes a political column for the Portland Press Herald