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Charlie Wilson a sore loser


Published: Fri, November 26, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

Filing deadline: Post-general election campaign finance reports for those who ran for U.S. House seats must be filed with the Federal Election Commission by midnight Thursday.

Costly race: There is little doubt that U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat from St. Clairsville, raised and spent more than his Republican opponent, Bill Johnson of Poland, in the 6th Congressional District race. The 12-county district includes all of Columbiana County and about half of Mahoning County.

Johnson defeated the two-term Democrat in the Nov. 2 general election.

About $2 million was spent by outside organizations — including the American Action Network, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — on this race.

Most of that money went toward television commercials criticizing the two candidates with considerably more attack ads against Wilson than Johnson.

No one likes to lose.

After U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat from St. Clairsville, lost the 6th Congressional District race to Republican Bill Johnson of Poland, he wouldn’t take calls from the media to discuss his defeat. Wilson was always glad to speak to the media after his victories.

Rather than discuss the loss, Wilson’s campaign emailed a two-sentence statement about 11:30 p.m. on the night of the election.

The next day I emailed his campaign treasurer and his congressional communications director to see if I could briefly speak to Wilson.

The response from Hillary Wicai Viers, his communications director, was: “I’m sorry, Congressman Wilson isn’t available today. Charlie’s focus right now is on the transition and making sure it goes very smoothly so that constituent needs are met.”

The transition? That’s a good one.

It’s even more amusing when you consider Kristi Paolina, Wilson’s campaign treasurer, emailed me on Nov. 4, writing: “Charlie is taking a few days away to spend at the Lake. When he returns, he is going to find his old phone (he does not have it with him), check messages and give you a call.”

I left a number of voice mail messages on Wilson’s cell phone. A transition at the lake must be why he still hasn’t returned the calls to this day.

On Nov. 17, more than two weeks after losing the election, there appeared to be some hope. In response to one of my many emails, Viers wrote: “Charlie is interested in doing something this week. Let me know what your schedule looks like.”

Less than two hours later, she “recalled” that email, and asked me to contact her later. I did by email and phone without a response.

I checked again on Nov. 19. In her response, Viers wrote: “I will contact you as soon as I know if anything is possible.”

That is political-speak for: You’ve got no chance of Charlie talking to you.

Running again?

WTOV, a television station in Wheeling, W.Va., that covers Steubenville, which is in the 6th District, went to Washington, D.C. A reporter for the station said Wilson declined multiple requests for an interview. Wilson spoke to the reporter off camera saying he planned to operate his funeral home and would consider running again in two years.

Again, no one likes to lose. But when you lose, it’s important to be professiona, not act like a spoiled kid who’s taking his ball home because he didn’t like the outcome of a play.

Despite its length — eight years in the Ohio House, two years in the state Senate and the past four in the U.S. House — Wilson’s political career was hardly impressive or inspiring. But Congress and state Legislatures throughout the country are filled with politicians just like Wilson.

Wilson is best known nationally for failing to get at least the required minimum number of signatures, only 50, on his nominating petitions in the 2006 Democratic primary, spending a lot of money because of the mistake, winning a write-in campaign in the primary against two opponents, and then capturing the congressional seat.

I’ll remember him best as a sore loser.


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