When Charlie Wilson left for Washington four years ago, he was Charlie, the businessman from Belmont County, who spoke plainly and understood his district.
We watched, as the voters of his district, the evolution of man to congressman, and it was, we think, his downfall.
Wilson has, since the election, returned to a more relaxed state, being more Charlie than Congressman Wilson. And that's the man we wish he had been all through both of his terms.
The change became most evident during the health care debate and aftermath. Access to Wilson was more controlled, and that can be understood in terms of the violent reaction of voters in some parts of the nation, including some in his district.
But he also could do little, as a result, to separate himself from the Democratic herd, to be Charlie from Belmont County instead of Charlie, the Congressman of Washington, D.C. It's subtle, but there is a tone that representatives get when they've gone inside the beltway, and it's something that even new Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has noticed already, that it's easy to get caught up in a life far different from the folks back home.
In the days since losing the election in November, Wilson has taken public stances on issues that seem more in line with what his constituents would expect, including voting against the DREAM Act, which would have granted a special class of citizenship to children in illegal immigrant families if they would attend college or join the military. It was a separation from the soon-to-be-displaced Democratic herd.
Wilson said he'll be watching reapportionment in Ohio and did not rule out a run in 2012. We just hope he remembers that it's not the congressman that voters elect. It's the man.
Republicans are as susceptible as Democrats, so we offer that message to Rep.-elect Bill Johnson, too. The lifestyle of Washington knows no party. It just simply exists.
And further advice to Johnson: don't be a stranger in Columbiana County or the rest of the 6th District. Charlie Wilson was a frequent visitor here during his first term, but his appearances during the second term were few and far between.
Don't expect the voters to remember you at election time if you make yourself scarce during the time in between. No matter how tough things get in Washington, don't be afraid to face the music back home.