Barely 24 hours after embattled Rep. David Wu (D.-Ore.) announced he would not seek reelection next year, signs were strong that this would not be enough for his fellow Democrats. Accused of sex with the teenage daughter of a supporter in 2010 and facing an investigation by the House Ethics Committee (not to mention eventual prosecution on criminal charges), the 56-year-old Wu is obviously not the kind of colleague national Democrats want around next year as they seek to retake control of the U.S. House.
In giving her support to the probe of Wu by the Ethics Committee, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) sidestepped questions of whether or not the Oregonian should resign from Congress. On Capitol Hill, between discussions about the debt ceiling, House members on both sides of the aisle were reportedly trying to guess which among the Democratic ranks would be first to call for seven-termer Wu to resign.
Back in Oregon’s Portland-based 1st District, there was no shortage of Democrats demanding Wu go now rather than later. The two Democrats who have announced bids for the House seat before Wu said he wasn’t running are in that category. Both state Rep. Brad Witt of Clatskanie and State Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian said last week that Wu must go.
Now that Wu is not running, other Democrats seem likely to jump in the primary. State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici and former State Sen. Ryan Deckert (now president of the Oregon Business Association), both of Washington County (Portland), have sent signals they will become candidates for the now-open 1st District. Few doubt that both will join in the calls for Wu’s resignation.
More than a few Democrats from Washington County to Washington D.C. recall bitterly how former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D.-N.Y.) got himself into a jam over his Twitter account only a few weeks ago, and that the refusal of his colleagues and other Democratic leaders to call for his resignation only made the problem worse. Weiner eventually did step down, but not until after his party had suffered significant embarrassment.
Not since Rep. Wendell Wyatt (R.-Ore.) retired back in 1974 has the 1st District sent a Republican to the House. Wu himself only had one close call, and that was when he won his first term in 1998 in a close (50% to 47%) race over Republican Molly Bordonaro. Last year, as stories about Wu’s unusual behavior began to surface, sporting goods entrepreneur and conservative Republican Rob Cornilles raised a handsome $607,000. But Wu won again, this time by a reduced but decisive (52% to 42%) margin.
In a special election in an off-year, however, Cornilles might just fare a bit better—especially if Democrats have a divisive nomination battle.
No one knows whether Wu will resign or finish his term, as he said he intends to do. It is premature to start thinking about a special election. For now, the impartial observer should simply wait, watch the number of Democrats calling for him to go, and remember Anthony Weiner.
Then start thinking about a special election.