INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Indian River County Commission District 2 candidate Charlie Wilson said Wednesday that if bowing out of the race would save his son, he would. But such a move won’t spare his son, or his son’s girlfriend, from numerous charges of petition fraud and forgery.
Wilson said he will, instead, continue to run for the seat on the county commission while the investigation and subsequent court dealings proceed.
“I have faith that justice will be done,” Wilson said during a press conference he had originally called for different reasons. “I love my son and pray for him every day.” Christopher Wilson, 23, and his girlfriend, Valerie Salvati, were arrested on warrants for felony petition fraud and forgery by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Salvati turned herself in on Tuesday, while Wilson was taken into custody early Wednesday morning.
Kristen Chenosky, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said that the investigation into the petition fraud is still open and active.
She said that candidate Charlie Wilson is not currently being looked at at this point in the investigation as being involved in the fraud. However, Wilson has not yet been cleared in the investigation, Chenosky added.
Whether more arrests could be made or more charges filed remains unknown.
During the press conference, Wilson released a report from an independent hand writing analysis expert who routinely reviews documents for the State Attorney’s Office. That report, though not 100 percent conclusive, Janis Tweedy wrote: “it is probable that the (questioned signatures)…was not produced by (Charlie Wilson).”
She cites in her report that the signatures look like they written by two people and the signatures have different “letter formations, spacing, slant, alignment, and other handwriting characteristics” from candidate Wilson.
Given the favorable report from the handwriting expert and a snap poll conducted that shows he is even with the two others running in the August Republican primary, Wilson said he has decided he would continue his run for the county commission.
“I had to do a lot of soul-searching,” Wilson said, and spent time talking to those he cares about.
One thing he said he had to consider was if his campaign were still winnable. Another was if the issues he is running on would or could be handled by one of the other candidates.
Wilson’s three big issues include selling the City of Vero Beach’s electric utility, sparking jobs and economic growth in the county, and those issues that the Tea Party holds – limited government, fiscal and individual responsibility, and the free market system.
Armed with the results of the snap poll his staff conducted, Wilson said he realized that he has strong support from the Tea Party movement.
The poll shows that Wilson has a slight lead over incumbent Commissioner Joe Flescher and former Sebastian City Councilwoman Dale Simchick, with Wilson having 20 percent support.
Of those polled, 64 percent said they support the Tea Party movement, compared to 39 percent who support the Indian River Neighborhood Association, an organization Wilson has repeatedly come out against.
Wilson said that part of the reason his campaign has survived is because of the Tea Party, and for that, he is appreciative.
But whether that support will translate into favorable votes for Wilson remains to be seen.
“The race is still open,” he said. “The race has yet to be won or lost.”