PORTLAND, Ore. – The tide of public opinion in U.S. Rep. David Wu’s congressional district has turned squarely against him after a report that a young woman accused him of an unwanted sexual encounter came to light last week, a KATU News/Survey USA poll found Monday.
In the poll, a full 75 percent of the 500 registered voters surveyed in the 1st Congressional District want the seven-term Democrat to quit when asked if he should remain in office or resign.
The poll comes after a Friday article by The Oregonian that reported a young woman accused the congressman of an unwanted sexual encounter last November. The incident became known to staffers when the woman reportedly left a message on Wu’s Portland office voicemail in May.
According to the paper, Wu told senior aides it was consensual.
The turn against Wu has been dramatic. In a KATU News/Survey USA poll last March the majority of voters weren’t calling for his resignation after the first reports of his erratic behavior became known. At that time, 46 percent of voters in his district called for his resignation while 42 percent said he should remain.
Wu’s erratic behavior included sending e-mails to staffers in the voice of his children, sending pictures of himself to staff members dressed in a tiger suit, giving angry speeches and talking his way inside the secure portion of Portland International Airport.
His erratic behavior led to the departure of several of his key staff members.
Wu also admitted he was receiving counseling and taking medications, although he would not say what kind of counseling he was receiving or what kind of medications he was taking.
At that time, support for Wu was mainly split down party lines: Most Democrats supported him and most Republicans opposed him. This latest poll, however, found that 68 percent of Democrats are now squarely in favor of his resignation. Additionally, 62 percent of Democrats now view the congressman unfavorably.
About 70 percent of the respondents say Wu can no longer be effective in office.
Monday’s poll had a margin of error from plus or minus 3.9 percent to plus or minus 4.5 percent, depending on the question.
On Monday, Wu's spokesman, Erik Dorey, confirmed to KATU News that Wu would not seek re-election. He also said Wu has not decided whether he'll finish his term.
If Wu does resign it would take at least a few months to replace him, leaving residents in places like Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard and Astoria without congressional representation.
But it could be longer. According to the secretary of state’s office, it depends on how quickly Gov. John Kitzhaber acts.
Kitzhaber cannot appoint a replacement. There has to be a special election, and if Kitzhaber were to call for that special election within 80 days of a resignation, then there would be a special primary and a special general election. If he waits 80 days, then there's only a special general election. And the governor then gets to pick which month those elections are held in.
The last time this happened in Oregon was 16 years ago, in 1995, when Sen. Bob Packwood resigned after accusations he made unwanted sexual advances on more than a dozen female employees.
KATU News reporter Patrick Preston contributed to this report.