AUGUSTA — Corey Wilson, a freshman legislator who kept a high profile in his first term, said Friday that he won’t run for re-election, citing a new job as a main reason why.
The 28-year-old Republican, a Marine veteran of the war in Iraq who represents southeast Augusta, said in a letter that he has accepted a job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Federal law bars executive branch employees from running in partisan elections.
He also cited a young family, insufficient legislative salary and his work on a master’s degree as reasons he will step down, saying the choice not to run “weighed on my heart greatly and has been the most difficult decision of my life.”
Curtis Ayotte, chairman of the Kennebec County Republican Committee, said no other Republican has expressed interest in running for the seat, and Wilson leaves “big shoes to fill.”
“In Kennebec County, Corey’s been one of our treasured legislators,” Ayotte said. “Corey’s making a great decision for him and his family and at least at the county level, we fully support it.”
In his first year in the Legislature, Wilson was often one of the more visible legislators in Augusta, especially on gun, veteran and health care issues.
Last year, he sponsored a prominent, ultimately successful, proposal to shield identifying information of concealed handgun permit holders from public record, a bill that gained steam when the Bangor Daily News submitted public access requests for the names, addresses and dates of birth of all Maine permit holders in February 2013. That move angered Maine’s gun rights advocates, and the newspaper rescinded its request after calls for a boycott among activists.
The energy was harnessed by minority legislative Republicans, who were helped by some Democrats and buoyed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto power to beat back gun-control measures sponsored by Democrats in the wake of the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that killed 20 students and six educators.
This week, a Wilson bill that would pave the way toward turning vacant group homes on Augusta’s east side into housing for homeless veterans was endorsed by a legislative committee.
Though he toed his party’s line on many issues, he gained a reputation as somewhat of a maverick on other issues. Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said Wilson “is someone who attempts to reach across the aisle and find folks who want to work on issues of common ground.”
Notably, Wilson was one of five Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted last year to expand Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, to 70,000 low income Mainers.
Out of step with most in his party, he’s also a proponent of universal health care, which he has attributed to his masters’ studies, which concentrate on health care management. He said his federal job, a fellowship program that trains future health care administrators, is a “once-in-a-lifetime experience that should lead to a long career” in the health care industry.
Wilson won his 2012 campaign for the seat over Democrat Doreen Sheive by a 200 vote margin, with 49 percent of votes to her 45 percent, even though the district is Democrat-leaning, with 555 more Democrats than Republicans, according to August 2013 voter data. However, unenrolled voters make up more than a third of the electorate there.
He also filed to run for re-election in 2014 in House District 85, a district created in last year’s redistricting process that contains most of his current district. Democrat Rebecca Cornell du Houx, who works for the Maine Army National Guard, also announced a run for the seat. She didn’t return a cellphone message Friday seeking comment for this story.
She’s the sister of former Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, who withdrew from the 2012 campaign after a controversy involving his ex-girlfriend, Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, who got a temporary protection-from-abuse order against him after she claimed he stalked and threatened her.
But du Houx denied allegations of wrongdoing and was never charged. He and Herbig reached a private agreement.
This story was edited on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. to reflect the settlement between Alex Cornell du Houx and Herbig.