Rep. Charlie Wilson (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: Jan. 18, 1943, Martins Ferry .
Home: St. Clairsville.
Education: Cincinnati Col. of Mortuary Science, 1967, OH U., B.A. 1980.
Family: Divorced; 4 children.
Elected office: OH House of Reps., 1996-2004; OH Senate, 2004-06.
Professional Career: Welder, painter, assembly-line worker, 1963-64; Owner, Wilson Funeral and Furniture Co., 1966-2006; Owner, Wilson Realty Co., 1978-2006.
The congressman from the 6th District is Charlie Wilson, a Democrat elected in 2006, and just the fifth person to reach Congress by running a write-in campaign. Wilson was born in Martins Ferry, across the Ohio River from Wheeling, W.V. He worked as a UAW welder, painter and assembly line worker before earning his mortician’s license from Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science in 1967. He started the Wilson Funeral and Furniture Company in 1966 and the Wilson Realty Company in 1978 and, as a 37-year-old businessman, got his bachelor’s degree from Ohio University. In 1996, Wilson won the first of four terms in the Ohio House, where he served as Democratic whip and assistant leader. In 2004, he was term-limited in the House and won a seat in the state Senate. Wilson worked in the Legislature to improve health care, spur job creation and promote economic development in the Ohio Valley. When Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland announced he would run for governor, Democrats touted Wilson as their top candidate to run for the seat.
|Charlie Wilson (D)||176,330||(62%)||($598,718)|
|Richard Stobbs (R)||92,968||(33%)|
|Dennis Spisak (Green)||13,812||(5%)|
|Charlie Wilson (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (62%)
Despite a decade in the Legislature, Wilson made a classic rookie mistake that nearly sunk his campaign. He failed to file the nominal 50 valid signatures to register his candidacy. His son, acting as campaign manager, submitted 96 signatures, but only 46 came from within the district and were valid. The bungled filing was an enormous embarrassment and national Democrats began to wonder about Wilson’s ability to capture the seat, especially against a strong Republican candidate, Chuck Blasdel, the speaker pro tempore of the Ohio State House. Wilson could either run as an independent or mount a write-in campaign for the Democratic nomination, both uphill endeavors. He chose the latter.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee agreed to help, but insisted on installing a professional manager. The DCCC flooded the district with radio and television ads while the Ohio AFL-CIO mobilized the district’s union members by making 120,000 phone calls and putting 300 volunteers in the field. Wilson says he knocked on 40,000 doors and wrote 4,000 personal letters. The field work paid off. Wilson won the primary with an astounding 66%, with 43,687 write-in votes. In the meantime, Blasdel won the GOP primary with a lackluster 47%, and by the fall the district had fallen off the Republicans’ list of targeted Democratic seats. Wilson defeated Blasdel 62%-38% in the general election and won all 12 counties in the district.
In the House, Wilson established a centrist voting record and joined the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate and conservative Democrats. He got behind the effort to impose “pay as you go” budgeting on lawmakers, which requires any tax cuts or spending increases be offset elsewhere in the budget. He got a seat on the Financial Services Committee, and during the housing market crisis, he worked with Ohio Republicans on a plan to direct a larger share of funds to buy foreclosed homes to harder-hit states. In January 2007, Wilson was one of only 16 House Democrats to vote against additional federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research, which uses excess cells from in vitro fertilization. On the war in Iraq, he was a strong supporter of “benchmarks” for progress, but opposed deadlines for withdrawing U.S. troops.
Wilson has had to withstand some good-natured ribbing from colleagues that he is not the real Rep. Charlie Wilson, the swashbuckling Texan of the same name who dated gorgeous women, fought the mujahudeen in Afghanistan and was featured in a 2007 film starring Tom Hanks. That Charlie Wilson is now retired from Congress. The new Charlie Wilson got re-elected with an impressive 62%-33% in 2008.