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Remembering Charlie Wilson
April 16, 2013 - Joselyn King
It is with a heavy heart that I must say a few things about a good friend for many years who died over the weekend.
I first met Charlie Wilson not long after I started with the Ohio bureau of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in 1995. I started my young journalism career just as the veteran businessman started his political career with a run for the Ohio House in 1996 -- and we matured together in our duties over the years.
In fact, Charlie's name has been on every one of my major election year charts since 1996. I'm sure I will think about that next year when I type in candidate names for the 2014 election.
Of course there was the time his name WASN'T to be on the 2006 Democratic primary election ballot because of a campaign snafu -- but he showed character in the days that followed, and it's my favorite memory of him.
Charlie had announced his candidacy that year for the 6th District Congressional seat, and no other serious candidates came out for the Democratic nomination. It seemed it would be a slam dunk for him to make it to the November general, but no one expected the candidate petitions he submitted wouldn't contain enough valid signatures and his candidacy not accepted.
Apparently people were so anxious to support Charlie that year many signed his petition even though they didn't live in his district. Unfortunately for him his campaign didn't notice, resulting in extreme embarassment for Wilson and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Those of us in media had to ask on how such a stupid mistake could have been made, and focus on the apparent lack of leadership.
In the following days, Charlie called a press conference to announce he would run as a write-in candidate. Prior to his remarks, he called me aside and thanked me for what he felt was fair and balanced reporting of his petition debacle.
"I'm man enough to know when I need to be slapped," Charlie said. I thanked him, and noted not all politicians I was covering at that time had a grasp of that concept, but were unaware and unapologetic for their stupid actions.
Charlie would go on to wage a $1 million primary write-in campaign -- much of it self-funded -- that proved successful and set him on his way to two terms in the U.S.House.
It didn't surprise me, though, when that run came to an end. After winning four Ohio House races, an Ohio Senate race and two U.S. House races on his own instincts, it seemed the DCCC started to call the shots in Wilson's campaign.
And the DCCC's ideas and tactics just didn't mesh with the thoughts of many in East Ohio. While Barack Obama rose to power nationally, Wilson was among Democrats sacrificed in local congressional districts.
I always found Charlie to be a very stylish and tasteful man, and I think in our hearts we all aspire to his personal and business success.
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