July 6, 2013

Augusta Rep. Corey Wilson credited with courage, conviction in first session

'I think he's a good Republican, but he realized he was sent here to exercise independent judgment,' says Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — His legislative committee was about to delay a vote on a controversial gun-control bill, and Rep. Corey Wilson was growing impatient. The Republican already knew he was going to vote against it.

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Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, watches the vote June 26 in the House of Representatives to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of the state budget. Wilson was one of several Republicans who voted to overturn the veto.

Staff file photo by Andy Molloy

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Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, left, chats with Rep. Jarrod Crockett, R-Betherl, during a House session on June 18 in the State House in Augusta.

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

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The bill, sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, would have set a 10-round magazine limit for guns in Maine. For Wilson, a 28-year-old former U.S. Marine in his freshman term representing east Augusta, it was a nonstarter.

So he said committee Democrats, in the legislative majority, were either using the bill as a "bargaining chip" in negotiations with Republicans or keeping it alive in deference to Alfond, a Portland Democrat.

Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, the Senate chairman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said then that he found Wilson's assertions "offensive."

"Corey came in as a freshman like many freshmen do, clearly full of himself and wanting to get something accomplished," Gerzofsky, a seven-term legislator, said recently. "There were times he heard the title of the bill and he thought he could vote."

With no political experience before this year, Wilson admits he came to the State House not knowing the legislative process.

"I just knew I would be leading and advocating for my community," he said.

However, the freshman's side ended up winning the battle in beating back gun-control measures, with Wilson as one of the main faces of opposition.

He showed himself as a party maverick as well, as one of five Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote to expand Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, to 70,000 low-income Mainers.

Wilson also involved himself in an issue that garnered prominent attention in the city of Augusta — whether the state should notify communities in advance when moving certain mental patients — and he prevailed.

Politics not the plan

Wilson didn't expect to be a politician.

He grew up in northern Kennebec County, living with a single mother and five other siblings in Albion and Clinton until age 12, when he moved to Fairfield with his father, who ran a small pressure-washing company.

He said he grew up poor as a child, with his family often subsisting on items from food banks. When he got older, he worked odd jobs. He got hired at the Lobster Trap II, a since-closed restaurant in Fairfield, the day before he turned 15 and later delivered the Morning Sentinel.

He always had an eye on the military, however. He was a member of the Young Marines in childhood and joined the service six days after turning 17.

"I knew that was what I wanted to do, and I planned on making a career out of it," Wilson said. "It was never my destiny to be a politician."

He served two tours of duty in Kuwait and Iraq between 2003 and 2007. On the second tour, he lived in and patrolled the area around the Haditha Dam, a major hydroelectric dam in Iraq's Anbar Province that American troops seized in the 2003 invasion of the country to prevent its destruction.

He attained the rank of sergeant by the end of his active-duty stint, which ended when he was prohibited from re-enlisting because of back and knee injuries.

The Marines paid for him to get a license to drive a tractor-trailer truck — his first job after returning to Maine before taking a job with the Department of Homeland Security.

He resigned before deciding to run for office. "Political dysfunction" was the main reason he ran.

"If we spent more time focusing on making good policy and less time taking jabs at each other, we'd probably accomplish more for the citizens of the state of Maine," he said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, looks up at the tally board during a vote in a House session on Tuesday in the State House in Augusta.

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

  


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