Saturday, February 18, 2006

OH-06: Charlie Wilson Files Election Petitions Illegally


From reporting posted by The Columbus Dispatch and the wonderful LincolnLogs blog, St. Sen. Charlie Wilson (D-Bridgeport) failed to file his petitions to run for Congress in OH-06 properly before the deadline, which was Thursday, 02/16. The controversey began when his son and campaign manager, Jason Wilson, failed a second set of petitions that totaled 96 signatures. By Ohio election law passed in late 2002, which Wilson amusingly voted for as a member of the General Assembly, requiring 50 signatures for each county that a US House district is composed of. The local Ohio media has been underscoring the fact that Wilson's first set of filing petitions actually had 53 signatures, 3 more than what is required by law. But this lovely fact is totally irrelevant. Jason Wilson formally and legally had the first set of petitions withdrawn on Thursday. It's as if the first set of petitions never legally existed and they should not even be considered for certification when the Columbiana County Board of Elections meets next Wednesday at 4pm to certify the petitions of various candidates. Acceptance of the first set of petitions would be a clear violation of Ohio election law cited above. A Democratic member of the Board of Elections, John Payne, apparently contacted Democratic Party boss Dennis Johnson to tell him that the first set of petitions included invalid signatures and many of the signatures would have to be thrown out. This led to Jason Wilson going back to the BOE and filing the illegal second set of petitions that simply does not meet the guidelines spelled out in Ohio law. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's office then got involved and said that the second set of petitions could be discarded. The Wilson campaign has been arguing that must mean they can revert back to the first set of petitions and certify those 53 signatures and then Wilson can be placed on the Democratic primary ballot. This argument completely ignores Jason Wilson's withdrawal of the first set of petitions. One cannot revert back to a legal set of documents only because the other documents one was relying on are now discovered to be illegal. Certification of the first set of petitions would be a violation of the law and I can only imagine that either St. Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R-East Liverpool) or the Ohio Republican Party would go to court if such action was taken by the Columbiana County Board of Elections.

And by all accounts, John Payne and the Columbiana County Board of Elections is prepared to certify Charlie Wilson's first set of petitions next Wednesday. This is where the story gets really juicy. Again relying on the exhaustive and highly detailed reporting of the LincolnLogs blog, the Democratic member of the BOE who contacted the local Democratic bosses and who also apparently met with Democratic partisan officials after the BOE office had closed Thursday, John Payne, has made it quite clear that he is in the race for Charlie Wilson's state senate seat if Wilson is elected to Congress. This direct conflict of interest is utterly disgusting. Payne has a vested interest in ensuring that Wilson is ceritifed and becomes a Congressional candidate. He should not even be involved in the certification process. Even the appearance of impropriety should be frowned upon. After all, it looks like Payne met in private with Democratic officials and the content of their conversation is still unknown. To speculative how serious this could be, it's entirely possible that Payne was promised Wilson's state senate if Wilson wins his Congressional race, as long as Payne certifies his withdrawn petitions on Wednesday. This level of corruption and total disregard for the law even trumps Frank Lautenberg's move of 2002 in the New Jersey Senate race, after the Torch faced the music and realized his own sleaziness was going to get him kicked out of office. The Democrats' ignorance and waving off of the applicable election laws is honestly very troubling. Wilson has pled ignorance and has said he "thought" he was filing the law. It's nice to see his intentions were sincere but unfortunately for him that means squat legally. Democrats are also arguing, on a partisan basis, that voters in OH-06 should be given a "meaningful choice" in their Congressional election. But the reality is that Charlie Wilson gave up the opportunity to be that "meaningful choice" when he failed to follow the law. Following the law (as always) is what matters here, not ensuring there is a Democratic candidate on the ballot. The Democrats can always wage a strong write-in campaign. But let this fiasco be a lesson to both major political parties: never clear the primary field for an establishment-favored candidate until it assured that all the proper paperwork has been filed on a timely and legal basis.

UPDATE: The plot thickens yet again, much thanks to LincolnLogs blog. Apparently, Charlie Wilson has a history of difficulty in filing election petitions. In 1994, Wilson sued The Tuscarawas County Board of Elections because they refused to certify his candidacy. Apparently, he only filled out the front page of the declaration of candidacy. The BOE refused to accept his candidacy as valid and the case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, in Wilson v. Hisrich. A decision was reached unanimously against Wilson and he was left off the ballot. So there might be some legal precedent here that actually involves and would presumably go against Wilson!

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