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Pa. lawmaker: Trump tweet drew response 'beyond anything I could have imagined'

He championed legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

He spoke in defense of abortion rights during an emotional debate in Harrisburg.

But it wasn't until State Sen. Daylin Leach posted the Tweet Heard Round the World that the Montgomery County Democrat went viral.

Phone lines were burning at Leach's King of Prussia office Thursday, as they had been for a day and a half, after his tweet Tuesday calling President Trump a "fascist, loofa-faced s-gibbon." (Rhymes with twit-gibbon). The longtime state legislator also squeezed a dare into that 140-character space: "Why don't you try to destroy my career."

As of Thursday afternoon, the tweeter-in-chief had not responded. But many others had: a thousand phone calls, more than 12,000 retweets, nearly 30,000 likes.

"This is something beyond anything I could have imagined," Leach said.

His voicemail box, which holds 150 messages, was full because no one had time to clear it. Interview requests had come from as far away as London.

"We have four or five phone lines here," said press aide Steve Hoenstine, "and you pick it up, and it just keeps ringing."

A few, he said, were angry callers shouting personal insults. One respondent on Twitter labeled Leach "an intolerant leftist totalitarian ideologue," while another upbraided him for "an immature and unprofessional comment."

But Hoenstine said the message in "90 percent" of the calls was, "'Hey, I'm from Denver,' or 'Hey, I'm from Boise,' or 'Hey, I'm from Alaska -- I saw what Daylin said and I appreciate it.'"

Leach said he did it without thinking twice. It was Tuesday, he was in caucus with Senate Democrats at the Capitol in Harrisburg, and he had just watched news footage in which Trump threatened to destroy the career of a Texas politician.

The unnamed state lawmaker's offense: He favored legislation that would require a criminal conviction before law enforcement could seize people's assets through civil forfeiture.

Like many a politician, Leach knows the power of social media. (See his 5,800 tweets and list of followers, which this week surged to 33,000). So he toggled to Twitter on his cellphone and unleashed his rhetorical attack on the Republican president. It largely went unnoticed for the rest of the day.

On Wednesday, however, the rant caught on. Twitter mentions of "s-gibbon" exploded. Leach's press aide said he found himself unable to get attention for Leach's stance on a hot-button abortion bill being debated in Harrisburg because the Trump tweet was spreading like wildfire.

A Hollywood writer/director called Leach's legislative office requesting a mailing address so he could send mugs and shirts emblazoned with the profane expression, according to Hoenstine. A man in Austin, Texas, called to offer Leach and his entire staff free barbecue at that city's famous Franklin BBQ if they came for a visit.

Leach and his spokesman said the tweet was nothing more than a freestyle comment in keeping with the senator's tendency to post news stories and commentary.

He earlier this year assumed the presidency of Washington-based Americans for Democratic Action. He also led a public forum on the Main Line several days before Trump's inauguration, in which 800 people from the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs gathered to hear ways to "resist" the Trump presidency.

But Leach said Thursday that his tweet was a spur-of-the-moment response and not a strategic missive to increase his national profile. Hoenstine, too, said he had no idea that the senator had sent the tweet until after it went live and a notification landed in his email inbox.

Leach said the choice of words were all his -- except for the pairing of the slang term for feces to modify "gibbon," a type of ape. He had heard that insult some time ago and stored it in his memory bank.

That unlikely pairing may have Scottish lineage, apparently making its way into the social media vernacular as a pejorative when Trump visited Scotland in 2016.

But, said Leach, "I would like to say that loofa-faced was my invention."