Former Rep. Charlie Wilson, the Blue Dog Ohio Democrat whose career in Congress was launched in 2006 by a successful write-in campaign, died on Sunday due to complications from a stroke, according to a release sent by Wilson’s family. He was 70.
Wilson was ousted from his 6th District seat in the 2010 Republican wave, and he attempted to win back his seat last cycle in a rematch with Republican Rep. Bill Johnson.
Wilson lost the election in the redrawn, more conservative district, and just a few months later, on Feb. 21, he suffered a stroke while on vacation in Florida.
He was readmitted to the hospital Saturday night and succumbed to his injuries Sunday afternoon.
“Charlie will be remembered for his boundless energy, his honest approach, and his dedication to improving the lives of our future generations,” Wilson’s family said in a statement. “For 14 years Southeast and East Ohio had a champion serving as their voice in Columbus and Washington and our communities are better places for his service.”
Born in Dillonvale, Ohio, on Jan. 18, 1943, Wilson spent the majority of his life in the Buckeye State, attending college at Ohio University and later running a funeral home in the Ohio valley that bore his name.
His career in public service began in 1997, when he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives.
He left that body in 2003 for the Ohio State Senate, where he served for three years before deciding to run for the 6th District seat. That seat was being vacated by then-Rep. Ted Strickland, who announced he was retiring to run for governor of Ohio.
Wilson’s 2006 run began with controversy, when he produced only 46 valid signatures out of the 50 necessary to gain a spot on the state’s primary ballot.
But with the help of national Democrats and labor unions, Wilson was able to run a successful write-in campaign, winning the Democratic primary against two opponents with an astounding 66 percent of the vote.
Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern, who served alongside Wilson in Ohio’s state legislature, mourned Wilson’s death.
“An outspoken advocate for working people, Charlie never wavered in his service to his constituents or his lifelong pursuit to help improve the lives of others,” Redfern said in a statement. “Congressman Wilson will be missed by all those that had the pleasure to meet him and know his kindness.”