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In wake of sex allegation, congressman will resign

July 26th, 2011 4:13 pm by KEVIN FREKING

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.

Wu had already said that he would not seek re-election, but he had come under increasing pressure to step down. Shortly after the allegations broke, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi requested a House Ethics Committee investigation of his conduct.

"The well-being 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 following allegations of sexual misconduct. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York resigned after sending lewd photos of himself through Twitter. Wu faced allegations in his 2004 campaign that he had sexually assaulted a former girlfriend when they were students at Stanford University in the 1970s

Wu, a Yale-educated lawyer, 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 on Friday night that a California woman had called Wu's office in Portland and reported an unwanted sexual encounter with him 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.

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 candidates who had already lined up to challenge Wu in the 2012 primary immediately called for Wu's resignation. On Capitol Hill, the pressure came behind the scenes, most notably from Oregon's two senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. The chiefs of staff for the two lawmakers met with Wu's chief of staff early Tuesday and made clear that the two senators were going to call for his resignation publicly. Their joint statement went out about the same time that Wu's resignation did.

"While no one takes pleasure in asking a colleague to resign, we believe he can no longer be an effective representative for our shared constituents and should, in the best interest of Oregon, step down," the release stated.

Wu said he could not care for his family the way he wanted to while staying in Congress and fighting "these very serious allegations."

"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.

But Wu's constituents have stood by him, one election after the next.

The reason, said former Gov. Barbara Roberts, is that Wu — despite troubles that have plagued him over the years — was "good in keeping on top of the needs of his constituency."

"David was quite charming when he was on the road. I've seen him with senior citizens. He was so attentive to their questions," Roberts said.

Democratic officials predicted that they will have little trouble retaining the seat. Republicans have been silent on Wu and opted to spend their time and efforts on the debt ceiling debate.

"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."

While Democrats have had to deal with the distractions associated with Weiner and Wu over the past few weeks, Republicans have also had their share of sex scandals. In May, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., resigned in the midst of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation that was looking into steps that he took to cover up an affair with a former member of his campaign staff. In February, Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., abruptly resigned after a gossip website reported that he had sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist.

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

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