Ex-Gov. Ted Strickland said former U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, who died Sunday, is “the kind of person we need in public life.”
Wilson, a Democrat from St. Clairsville who served 10 years in the state Legislature and four years in the U.S. House, was “devoted to public service.”
Wilson was a “very successful” businessman, who never talked about his accomplishments, Strickland said.
Strickland, a Democrat who chose to run for governor in 2006 not for another term representing the 6th Congressional District, said he spent a lot of time that year campaigning with Wilson, who succeeded him.
Wilson failed to get enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions in 2006, and between him and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, more than $1 million was spent to draw attention to his successful write-in campaign.
Wilson is the only write-in candidate in U.S. history to win a partisan political primary for Congress against two candidates whose names were on the ballot.
“He was very proud to be in Congress,” Strickland said. “He really appreciated the opportunity to serve there, and understood its importance.”
Wilson, 70, died Sunday from complications from a Feb. 21 stroke he had in Florida.
Wilson was out of the hospital and in a rehabilitation facility “doing much better,” and continuing “to make progress,” his family wrote in a statement a week ago to The Vindicator.
But Wilson suddenly took a turn for the worse Saturday, and died at Bethesda Hospital East in Boynton Beach, Fla., at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Wilson lost the 6th Congressional District race in 2010 to Republican Bill Johnson of Marietta, and lost a rematch for the seat two years later. The 6th District includes all of Columbiana County and the southern portion of Mahoning County.
“It was a very painful event, but it was one of those terrible years” for Democrats, said Strickland, who lost his gubernatorial race in 2010.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said Wilson “for years stood up for southeastern Ohio in the Ohio General Assembly and U.S. Congress. He will always be remembered for his relentless commitment to the people he represented.”
State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, who sat next to Wilson for two years in the Ohio Senate, said Wilson was “totally dedicated to public service,” and “had an incredible sense of humor.”
Funeral arrangements for Wilson, who owned funeral homes, are pending.