Correction: A story in Wednesday's paper should have said that Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) was the first Chinese-American in the House, not in Congress.
Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) announced Tuesday that he will resign from Congress, four days after a report that a young woman called his office complaining of an “unwanted sexual encounter.”
“I cannot care for my family the way I wish while serving in Congress and fighting these very serious allegations,” Wu said in a statement. “The wellbeing of my children must come before anything else. With great sadness, I therefore intend to resign effective upon the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis. This is the right decision for my family, the institution of the House, and my colleagues.”
The congressman previously had said he would not seek reelection, but congressional leaders had called for an ethics investigation.
Wu had previously been accused of erratic behavior toward the end of the 2010 campaign. The incident in question, which Wu told his staff was consensual, according to the Oregonian, involved a recent high school graduate who is the daughter of one of Wu’s friends. It occurred three weeks after Election Day.
The Portland Oregonian reported late Friday that Wu’s office received the call this spring from the young woman, who was reportedly distraught.
The Oregonian has not identified the woman and says she has not filed charges with the police, but the looming questions about Wu’s actions – particularly on top of his alleged mental health problems late last year and previous revelations about unwanted sexual advances he made in college in the 1970s, made staying in Congress nearly untenable.
Democratic leaders had counseled Wu on the path forward, and Sens. Ron Wyden (D) and Jeff Merkley (D) early Tuesday had urged him to resign.
In response to the news, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said Wu’s resignation “is the right decision” and expressed confidence that his party would hold the seat.
Oregon election law requires Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) to call a special election for the seat.
If Kitzhaber sets the special election within 80 days of the vacancy, party leaders will chose their nominees by convention. If he calls for it after that point, there will be party primaries.
The next regularly scheduled election in Oregon is May 15, 2012, which is more than nine months away.
The last special election for a House seat in the state was in May of 1996, when Wyden ascended to the Senate and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), replaced him.
Currently running for the seat are state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian (D) and state Rep. Brad Witt (D), and state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici is expected to join them. Republicans who could run include 2010 nominee Rob Cornilles, businessman Rob Miller and several state legislators.
A special election would appear to help Republicans, but the seat leans Democratic, and Avakian and Bonamici are viewed as particularly strong upgrades over the embattled Wu.
“The electoral system might be beneficial to Republicans, but you’re upgrading the quality of the candidate from the Democratic side,” said West Coast Democratic consultant Jim Ross.
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