Another House Dem Resigns in Sex Scandal; Cites 'Wellbeing of My Children'

July 26, 2011 - 12:58 PM

Wu Sex Scandal

FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2010 file photo, Congressman David Wu, D-Ore., speaks during an interview in Portland, Ore. Wu is calling a published report about an alleged unwanted sexual encounter with a young woman

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Rep. David Wu of Oregon announced Tuesday that he will resign amid the political fallout from an 18-year-old woman's allegations of an unwanted sexual encounter with him.

Within days of the allegation, Democratic leaders requested a House Ethics Committee investigation of his conduct. Wu had said Monday he would not seek re-election, but he had come under increasing pressure to step down.

"The wellbeing of my children must come before anything else," Wu said in a statement. "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."

Wu is the second House Democrat in the last six weeks to be forced to resign as a result of a sex scandal. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York resigned after sending lewd photos of himself through Twitter.

Wu, who separated from his wife more than a year ago, was elected to Congress in 1998 as the first Chinese-American to serve in the House. He's maintained a centrist voting record but has been a leading voice on human rights abuses in China. He angered the high-tech firms in his district when he voted against normalizing trade relations with China.

Wu's hometown newspaper, the Oregonian, reported that a California woman had called Wu's office in Portland and reported an unwanted sexual encounter with him at around Thanksgiving. The paper also reported that Wu told senior aides the sexual encounter was consensual.

The newspaper said the woman decided not to press charges because there were no witnesses and it would have been her word against Wu's.

Democratic primary challengers immediately called for Wu's resignation. On Capitol Hill, the pressure came behind the scenes.

"It has been the greatest privilege of my life to be a United States Congressman," Wu said in his resignation announcement. "Rare is the nation in which an immigrant child can become a national political figure. I thank God and my parents for the privilege of being an American."

Under state law, Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber sets the date for a special election. There is no provision for an interim appointment.

The governor has two options. He can schedule the election within 80 days of the resignation. If he does, the parties nominate candidates according to their internal rules, such as through a convention.

He can schedule the election for 80 days or longer beyond the date of resignation. In that case, there will also be a primary election to select candidates.

Press secretary Christine Miles said Tuesday that Kitzhaber and his staff were working on a date and trying to decide which option he'll choose.

Wu has a daughter, 11, and a son, 13. He is an attorney and received his law degree from Yale Law School.

Wu has consistently won re-election with ease, but he was already facing the prospects of a difficult campaign even before the latest scandal broke. In January seven staffers resigned because of behavior that included sending a photo of himself in a tiger costume to a staff member and an angry public speech. Wu attributed those to a period of mental health challenges that began in 2008 as marital issues led to a separation from his wife.

Democratic officials predicted that they will retain the seat.

"Congressman Wu's resignation is the right decision," said Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "A Democrat has held this seat in Congress since 1975, Sen. John Kerry won this district (as a presidential candidate) in 2004 and President Obama won this district with 63 percent in 2008."

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Associated Press writers Tim Fought and Terrence Petty contributed to this report from Portland.