Ex-U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat running to return to Congress, answered the question posed recently by his opponent and the National Republican Congressional Committee about his support of the president.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, and the NRCC, the committee that works to get Republicans elected to the House, have recently called on Wilson of St. Clairsville to declare his support for President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat.
When asked by The Vindicator, Wilson said, “Who else would I support, Mitt Romney?”
Rather than say why he supports Obama, who he’s criticized in the past over trade agreements and cap-and-trade legislation to make it harder to produce coal, Wilson went after Romney and Johnson.
“Mitt Romney, like Bill Johnson, has made a career of shutting down manufacturing plants just like the ones we have along the Ohio River,” Wilson said. “With policies like this, I find it hard to believe that Bill Johnson or Mitt Romney will be successful reaching out to the voters of our district.”
Mark Weaver, Johnson’s campaign spokesman, said he isn’t surprised that Wilson chose to criticize Romney rather than embrace Obama.
“Charlie Wilson voted in lock-step with [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama when he was in Congress,” Weaver said. “He’s trying to distance himself from that record.”
Johnson beat Wilson, who was a two-term congressman, in the 2010 election. The two face off this November in what is considered one of the more competitive races in the country.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s campaign criticized Johnson for having Newt Gingrich, an unsuccessful GOP presidential candidate, headline a June 22 fundraiser at the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton.
“Bringing in a polarizing figure like Newt Gingrich into a moderate district is going to cause some kind of backlash,” said J.R. Starrett, Wilson’s campaign manager. “Is Bill Johnson using Newt Gingrich to only raise money or will he accept a public endorsement?”
Weaver said Johnson “has support of a wide range of people and would welcome an endorsement from anyone who supports his agenda and the issues he’s fighting for. Newt Gingrich and Bill Johnson both agree Obamacare was a terrible policy and Charlie Wilson and Barack Obama voted to pass it.”
The 6th District includes southern Mahoning County, all of Columbiana County and runs along the eastern border of the state taking in 10 other counties. Congressional redistricting keeps the existing district largely intact, but adds five other counties. The new district boundaries take effect next year.
The NRCC recently reserved $296,000 in Youngstown television airtime for this race. In late April, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved $1.06 million in TV commercial time for this race.
Depending on how the race develops, that amount can be increased or decreased. The commercials aren’t supposed to start until after Labor Day.
Johnson has been airing his own campaign commercials on Fox News Sunday talk shows, with a buy of about $60,000. His campaign expects to increase that amount and stay on TV.
Wilson, who’s provided 43 percent of the money he’s raised for his campaign, said he’ll air ads “when the time is right. Right now, voters are just dealing with their children being released from school and settling into the summer routine.”