BRUNSWICK, Maine — Embattled Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx probably surprised some of his Brunswick constituents in late June when he withdrew from the House District 66 race after weeks of insisting he wouldn’t.
Then on Friday, when the Bangor Daily News published details of a secret agreement struck between Cornell du Houx and fellow lawmaker Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, who at one point sought a protection from abuse order against him, Cornell du Houx resolved to “set the record straight.”
The agreement called for Cornell du Houx, among other things, to withdraw from the race by July 1, which was at odds with his repeated public statements until June 29 that he would do no such thing.
Cornell du Houx, who says he was engaged to Herbig until the romance ended messily earlier this year, said the reason he wouldn’t admit he was withdrawing was because doing so would have violated a stipulation in the agreement that neither he nor Herbig talk publicly about its terms. Furthermore, Cornell du Houx said that for a period of time he considered violating the agreement and continuing his run to regain his seat on the grounds that if necessary he could refute Herbig’s claims against him.
“I couldn’t say I was withdrawing from the race because of the agreement,” said Cornell du Houx. “That would have been violating the agreement. Now that the agreement has been leaked, I’m not going to be ridiculed and have my reputation ridiculed any longer.”
In late April, Herbig secured a temporary protection from abuse order against Cornell du Houx, alleging that among other things he had threatened and stalked her. The order was scheduled to be reviewed in Belfast District Court on May 14, but that hearing was canceled and the protection from abuse order lifted after lawyers for the former couple agreed to the terms of the private agreement.
Among the terms were that Cornell du Houx would not enter the city of Belfast, where Herbig lives, for 10 years and that if he had business at the State House in Augusta, he’d give Capitol Police 48 hours notice before his arrival.
In the agreement, Herbig reasserted that the allegations in her temporary protection from abuse order were true while Cornell du Houx maintained his innocence.
Cornell du Houx said Sunday that because the agreement, which was meant to be secret, already had been released, he has chosen to go public with his side of the story. He said his reason for signing on to the terms of the agreement — including paying Herbig’s $9,000 legal bills — was because he wanted the saga to end and didn’t want to appear in court.
“I was very concerned about my military career and her damaging it,” he said. “Being a public affairs officer requires a spotless record. There are stringent background checks. Just appearing at a hearing could have been hurtful for my future career. I was so fed up that I just wanted it to end.”
Though Cornell du Houx said he felt that he could debunk Herbig’s claims, he said there was always a possibility that a judge could rule against him and grant a long-term protection from abuse order, which among other things would have barred him from possessing a firearm.
“That’s a problem for someone serving in the military,” he said.
Cornell du Houx produced copies of numerous emails and text messages between himself and Herbig that he says prove that vast portions of her statement for the temporary protection from abuse order were untrue.
Cornell du Houx, an Iraq war veteran, is scheduled to begin an active-duty assignment with the U.S. Navy in January. He has said that it might have been possible for him to ask for another assignment that wouldn’t interfere with his duties to the Maine House of Representatives, but that recent events, including the chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, Ben Grant, calling for his resignation last month, prompted him to end his bid.
“I did seriously consider running for reelection after Ben Grant made his comments, due to the overwhelming support it created, as I considered all she could do is to try and sue me for exercising my constitutional right to run and hold office,” wrote Cornell du Houx in a statement given to the Bangor Daily News on Sunday. “At the time I signed the agreement I knew I wanted to continue my work with the Navy, which is why it stated she was allowed to say I withdrew [from the House District 66 race] and moved out of the state.”
Cornell du Houx, a Bowdoin College graduate, said his political career “is not over” and that he intends to attend graduate school for an advanced government or leadership degree. He said that he might try to represent part of Brunswick again in the future, perhaps in 2014 when his fellow Democratic lawmaker from Brunswick, Rep. Charles Priest, is forced out of the District 63 seat by term limits.
Asked whether he is considering a lawsuit against Herbig, which the former couple agreed not to pursue in their written agreement, Cornell du Houx said he is undecided.
“I’m considering all my options,” he said.
Herbig could not be reached by telephone or email Sunday afternoon. Her attorney, Chris MacLean of Camden, told the Bangor Daily News on Friday that Herbig was looking forward to “moving on with her life” and running for re-election to the House District 43 seat, which represents Belfast, Belmont and Northport.