Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Sources: Wilson petitions not valid
The candidate can run as a Democratic write-in or as an independent.
LISBON Charles A. Wilson Jr. doesn't have enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions to run in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District race, The Vindicator has learned.
The Columbiana County Board of Elections is left with no other choice but to disqualify Wilson's candidacy for the seat at its meeting today.
Wilson has only 48 valid signatures on his nominating petitions, according to two Democratic sources and one Republican source with knowledge of his petitions. Congressional candidates need 50 valid signatures from registered voters in their districts to get on the ballot.
Wilson, a state senator from St. Clairsville, was widely considered the favorite to win the May 2 three-man Democratic primary for the 6th District.
Wilson has said there are 50 valid signatures on his petitions.
His petitions had 96 signatures, all from Belmont and Scioto counties. Those counties are split into two congressional districts, and 43 of the signatures on his petitions came from voters who live in other congressional districts.
Of the 53 from 6th District residents, five were thrown out for various reasons, considered fatal flaws under state law, including those who listed post office boxes as addresses and one person who didn't list an address, those with knowledge of Wilson's petitions said. That leaves Wilson with 48 signatures from valid registered voters in the 6th: 41 from Belmont and seven from Scioto.
Wilson and his supporters acknowledge the campaign should have collected signatures in other counties.
Wilson has said he forgot his home county of Belmont is a split county even though he lives in the part that isn't in the 6th District. St. Clairsville is a community in the 18th Congressional District.
"Charlie Wilson appears to be grossly unfamiliar with the congressional district he wants to represent in Congress," said Ed Patru, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Once disqualified, Wilson can appeal the decision to the Columbiana County elections board by the deadline Monday. If the board dismisses the protest, Wilson can file a complaint in the 7th District Court of Appeals.
If a legal challenge fails, Wilson can run as a write-in candidate in the Democratic primary or seek the job in the November general election as an independent.
"Those decisions have yet to be made," Wilson said Tuesday.
The write-in candidacy deadline is March 13. A simple form declaring his candidacy as a write-in is all that's needed to run that way.
Party chief's input
Chris Redfern, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said he'd prefer Wilson run as a write-in. The chairman said it would cost Wilson's campaign a considerable amount of money to make Democratic primary voters in the 12-county congressional district aware of Wilson's write-in candidacy and how to cast ballots for him.
To run as an independent in the general election, Wilson would need petitions with 1,886 valid signatures, according to the Columbiana County elections board. That number equals 1 percent of the total votes in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Some Wilson campaign advisers want to go the independent route. But Redfern sees that as problematic.
"When we do sample Democratic ballots, we don't want to include an independent candidate," Redfern said, because it causes voter confusion.
Redfern said the state party doesn't have to endorse or support the winner of the Democratic primary. The two Democrats in the party's primary for the 6th District seat are Bob Carr of Wellsville and John Stephen Luchansky of Boardman.
As one of the few open seats in a competitive congressional district President Bush captured 51 percent of the district's vote in 2004 national Republicans and Democrats consider this to be one of the most important House races in the country. U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lisbon Democrat, isn't running for re-election this year, opting to run for governor.
State Rep. Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool is considered the Republican front-runner in this race.
"Whether he runs as a Democrat or an independent, we will bury Charlie Wilson," Patru said.
Contributing to this report was Jeff Ortega, Vindicator correspondent in Columbus.