Charles Sanders was appointed to fill a vacant term on the Harveysburg Village Council in 1971, and to the Waynesville Village Council in 1982.
He was elected to two, four-year terms on the Waynesville council, starting in 1989, and ran for mayor in the middle of his second term. He was then elected to two, four-year terms as mayor, starting in 1995, but voters recalled him in 2000.
He ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, for a U.S. House seat in 1998, 2000 and 2002, getting less than 30 percent of the vote in the heavily Republican district all three times. Sanders earned 65 percent of the vote to win the March 2, 2004, primary for the 2nd District.