By David Skolnick
After losing his second congressional race in a row, Democrat Charlie Wilson said his political career likely is over.
“Never say never, but it doesn’t look like I will make it in this seat,” Wilson told The Vindicator on Wednesday, the day after losing again to Republican Bill Johnson in the 6th Congressional District race. “I’m not looking at anything. I am not saying, ‘I’ll never run again.’ But it’s not terribly likely I will.”
An unofficial final count of the election has Johnson, of Marietta, beating Wilson, of St. Clairsville, by 6.74 percentage points, or 19,706 votes, in the 18-county district.
This was a rematch from 2010 when Johnson, then the challenger, beat Wilson, a two-term incumbent, by 5.04 percentage points, or 10,347 votes.
In 2010, the district’s voter makeup leaned about 1 to 2 percentage points in favor of Democrats.
But a Republican-led redistricting, which took effect with this election, added six GOP-leaning counties and took away large Democratic portions of Mahoning and Athens counties, making it a district with an 8-percentage-point Republican advantage.
Johnson ended up winning what’s left of Mahoning and Athens counties in this election as well 12 of the 16 other counties in the district.
“I lost two big anchors I always had,” Wilson said of Mahoning and Athens counties. “This district has changed dramatically. And [Johnson will] be harder to beat in two years as he gets better name recognition. Republicans have a real loyal following, and he has that.”
In the very late hours of Tuesday, Wilson refused to acknowledge defeat because the results from Jefferson County weren’t counted until 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Even if Wilson won 80 percent of the vote in that county, he still would have lost the race. It turned out Wilson won only 50.5 percent of the vote in Jefferson County.
“It’s hard to make that [concession] call because Jefferson County has always been a strong Democratic area,” he said. “I ended up winning the county by a point.”
Wilson, a funeral-home owner, gave $564,900 of his own money to his campaign. That was about 40 percent of the money the campaign raised.
“The investment didn’t produce the results I wanted,” he said. “I felt I needed to make that investment to be competitive, and that’s what I did. I’m disappointed in the result, but not in the investment.”
Wilson said he expected more of his supporters to vote in the election.
“Mine didn’t and Republicans did,” he said. Republicans “were absolutely more disciplined” when it came to voting.
Wilson’s campaign paid for a poll that had him ahead by 6 percentage points. Johnson’s campaign had a poll with the Republican winning by 8 percentage points.
“I was optimistic,” Wilson said about winning.
His one regret was not going after Johnson for his opposition to the federal auto bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.
Wilson voted for the bailout, and President Barack Obama used it as a key selling point in his successful bid for re-election.
“We should have attacked [Johnson] on it,” Wilson said. “We should have hit on the auto bailout.”
Wilson said he’ll continue to operate his funeral homes.