Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) announced Tuesday that he will resign from Congress, just days after a newspaper reported that a teenage woman had accused the seven-term congressman of forcing her into an "unwanted sexual encounter." Wu has acknowledged that something happened between him and the 18-year-old, a daughter of one of his donors, but maintained that it was consensual. Wu, who has grown increasingly unpopular following reports of odd behavior (including sending staff members a photo of himself in a tiger costume), initially said he would stay in office, but not run for an eighth term next year. Now he says he'll retire once Congress resolves the debt-ceiling crisis, so he can focus on the needs of his children while "fighting these very serious accusations." Who benefits from this episode, and who gets hurt? Here, a brief guide:
A scandal-plagued Wu still might have won re-election in his heavily Democratic district, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Heck, "even a nonincumbent Democrat should have held that seat with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket" in November 2012. But Wu's resignation means he will be replaced in a special election. Such irregular elections have very low turnouts, so Republicans might have a chance to pick up this seat if they get motivated.
Actually, Wu's departure should guarantee that Democrats will hold on to his seat, says Paul Steinhauser at CNN. His district, which includes part of Portland, is a liberal bastion that has been represented by a Democrat since 1976. "This should be a slam dunk for Democrats," says one Republican source. "The only shot Republicans had was to have Wu in the race."
Voters in Wu's district
The "tide of public opinion" turned against Wu the moment this scandal broke, says Steve Benham at KATU.com. A KATU News/Survey USA poll on Monday found that 75 percent out of registered voters in his congressional district wanted Wu to quit. In March, a similar poll found that only 46 percent wanted Wu to go. Now the growing anti-Wu constituency gets its way.
The Democrats have sure been through a rough patch, says Teresa Carson at Reuters. Another Democrat, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, resigned in disgrace in June after an embarrassing sexting scandal. Then this week, Nancy Pelosi, the top House Democrat, had to call for an ethics investigation into Wu's behavior. And now Wu, the first Chinese-American elected to Congress, is going, and leaving the party to repair the damage he leaves behind.
"This is getting ridiculous," says Steven Benen at Washington Monthly. Wu is actually the fifth member of the 112th Congress to resign. People are already talking about how this could be the "worst Congress ever." The 112th was supposed to be all about creating jobs, but now it will be remembered for its parade of scandals and career implosions.
This disgusting scandal is hardly surprising, says Jessica Grose at Slate. Just as Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California despite allegations that he sexually harassed a woman on a movie set, Wu won in 2004 despite reports that he had been disciplined in college for another forced sexual encounter. "Wu's brazenness — allegedly assaulting the daughter of a friend! — mirror's Schwarzenegger's gall in having an affair with a domestic employee who even vacationed with his family."