Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) announced Tuesday that he will resign from Congress after allegations surfaced he was involved in an unwanted sexual encounter with a teenager.
The seven-term lawmaker left his resignation date vague, saying he would step down when the debt-limit crisis is resolved.
“The well-being 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.”
Wu had not appeared on the House floor for any votes as of Tuesday evening, and he was not seen during an afternoon photo session where the official photograph of the 112th Congress was taken.
Pressure on Wu to resign began Monday after reports claimed the lawmaker had a sexual encounter with the teenage daughter of a campaign donor last fall.
Wu had said he did not plan to resign but would not seek reelection next year.
That changed after he began to lose the support of his party when the Democratic leadership called for an ethics investigation. Meanwhile, his hometown paper called for his resignation.
The allegation of sexual misconduct against him arose from a report by the Portland Oregonian that said the teenager left a voice mail on Wu’s district office phone accusing him of acting in a sexually aggressive manner toward her just weeks after he won reelection.
According to a source, the lawmaker had told staffers that the encounter with the young woman did occur, though he said it was consensual.
Portland Police Department spokesman Robert King said Tuesday he “doesn’t believe” any police reports have been filed against Wu.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, had asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations.
She released a short statement on Wu’s resignation Tuesday, saying, “Congressman Wu’s decision today is a recognition of his need to focus on his children and their future. The timing of his decision is in the best interests of his constituents. My prayers are with him and his family.”
Earlier this year a number of Wu’s staffers resigned because of reported “bizarre” behavior the lawmaker had been exhibiting, including sending his staff a photo of himself wearing a tiger costume and sending additional emails in the voice of his young daughter.
Wu’s resignation likely will make the district an easy hold for the Democratic Party.
Brad Avakian, commissioner of the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, and state Rep. Brad Witt already had been running against Wu in the Democratic primary, and others, including state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici, are considering getting in. The district gave President Obama 61 percent of its vote in the 2008 election. While it became a few points more Republican because of redistricting, it is unlikely the GOP can win the seat.
Republican sources familiar with the district said they are unlikely to seriously contest the race. Even with mounting reports of erratic behavior in a strong year for the GOP, Wu still won reelection with 55 percent of the vote last fall.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) will set a date for a special election. If he sets the election within the next 79 days, the parties will choose their candidates, meaning Avakian, Witt and any other candidates will have to vie for party insiders’ affections. If Kitzhaber decides to wait more than 79 days, special primary elections will be held as well.
In a statement, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said Wu’s decision to resign was the right one and he expressed confidence that Wu’s district would stay in Democratic control.
“We are confident that a Democrat will continue to represent the families in this overwhelmingly Democratic district and fight against Republicans’ agenda to end Medicare and harm our economy,” Israel said. “These are serious times in our country as Republicans are recklessly endangering our economy.”
Jordy Yager and Molly K. Hooper contributed.
This post was last updated at 3:30 p.m.