Del. C.T. Wilson tells his constituents that successful governance depends on finding things that people can agree on, instead of focusing on disagreements. And sometimes, he says, that means bucking the party line.
“Like Reagan and Tip O’Neill, we can agree to disagree,” Wilson said, referring to the 1980s Republican president and Democratic speaker of the House. “But we can sit and have a conversation.”
A self-described moderate Democrat, Wilson is running for his third term as delegate representing District 28, which includes most of Charles County.
As an example of what can happen when legislators of different parties and views work toward common goals, Wilson cites last year’s contentious effort to change the maximum penalty for fatal child abuse from 40 years to life.
Wilson worked with a Republican delegate, Brett Wilson of Washington County, to increase the penalty by hitching it to the hotly debated Justice Reinvention Act.
“I fought on the House floor for an hour and a half, against my own party, to increase that penalty,” Wilson said. “And I won by one vote.”
Ultimately, Wilson said, 40 Democrats changed their vote to support the amended act. “It was the first time ever that the Speaker of the House had to change his vote,” Wilson recalled with pride.
In addition to crime, Wilson believes that Republicans and Democrats can work together on improving transportation and taking care of military veterans.
“Most folks leave Charles County one of two ways,” — along either Route 210 or Route 301/5 — “and both are atrocious,” he said.
Wilson believes that the region’s delegates should work with Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has made transportation one of his legislative priorities.
A veteran combat soldier, Wilson advocates for more resources to help address mental health issues, drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans.
“Our sons and daughters coming back have left a piece of themselves on the battlefield,” Wilson said. “We can all agree that we need to make them whole again because they went there for us.”
Wilson notes that Hogan is proposing a bill that would make veterans’ retirement tax-free.
Wilson, a Missouri native, runs his own law practice as a defense attorney in Prince George’s County and is a former felony prosecutor. Wilson said he is most proud of being a husband and father of two daughters and a son.
Earlier this year, Wilson rose to national prominence thanks to the Netflix documentary “The Keepers,” about the unsolved murder of a nun in Baltimore County in the 1960s that may have been connected to systematic sexual abuse of dozens of students in a Catholic high school.
For years, Wilson had joined Republican legislators trying to pass legislation that would increase the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual abuse, because many victims repress the trauma well into adulthood. Wilson himself experienced such abuse as an orphan living in foster homes.
With the impending release of “The Keepers,” opposition to the legislation suddenly vanished and the General Assembly passed the new statute of limitations.
“I made enemies in high places with that,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who serves as chair of the powerful business regulation subcommittee as well as House chair of the Assembly’s veterans caucus, says that he doesn’t plan to serve in the General Assembly forever and is already working with young legislators to impart the lessons he’s learned.
“They tell you the best way to be successful is to be quiet, do as you’re told and wait your turn,” Wilson said. “But that’s not the definition of a leader. And we are elected to be leaders.”
“Even if you’re standing by yourself, you’ll be amazed how many people are standing behind you when you turn around,” Wilson said. “But if you never stand up, you will never know.”