Johnson named chief liaison to district
The Salem man will serve as the congressman's liaison with public officials.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
CANFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson named Dennis Johnson, chairman of the Columbiana County Democratic Party and a former congressional aide to James A. Traficant Jr., as his chief liaison to the district.
Johnson, 66, of Salem, is serving as Wilson's regional field representative out of the congressman's Canfield office on Boardman-Canfield Road. Johnson will earn about 60,000 annually.
Johnson said his primary responsibility is to serve as a liaison between Wilson, of St. Clairsville, D-6th, and public officials in the 12-county congressional district that includes all of Columbiana County and a portion of Mahoning.
"I will do everything I can to help the congressman," Johnson said. "It's going to be enjoyable working for him. He wants to be involved in what's happening in his district."
Johnson was actively involved in Wilson's campaign, sponsoring two Mahoning Valley fundraisers for the congressman last year.
As Columbiana County Democratic chairman, a position he's held since 1991, Johnson delivered the county Democratic endorsement to Wilson during the congressman's write-in campaign. It was the first county party endorsement for Wilson and a key one because Columbiana is the most-populated county in the 6th Congressional District.
The Wilson campaign sought advice from Johnson in February 2006 when it was discovered that there probably weren't enough valid signatures on the candidate's nominating petitions for the May Democratic primary.
As a member of the Columbiana County Board of Elections, Johnson had no choice but to disqualify Wilson from the ballot when the campaign failed to collect at least 50 valid signatures.
Wilson, who was a state senator at the time whose district included Columbiana, won the primary as a write-in against two candidates whose names were on the ballot. It was the first time someone won a congressional primary under those circumstances.
While Johnson is based at Wilson's Canfield office, he will spend a lot of time on the road traveling the district that takes in more than 300 miles.
Johnson served as a field representative for Traficant, starting in March 1999. When Traficant was expelled from Congress on July 24, 2002, after being federally convicted on 12 counts including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion, Johnson continued to work for the 17th Congressional District office until Dec. 31, 2002.
Also working out of the Canfield office is Joy Donathon of Jefferson County, who will serve as its office manager and a case worker. She'll earn about 30,000 annually. Wilson plans to add one or two more people to the Canfield office later this year.
Wilson also has offices in Bridgeport and Marietta and plans to add an office in the southern part of the district later this year.