Image: Wu
Don Ryan  /  AP
In this March, 7, 2011 file photo, Oregon Democratic Congressman David Wu speaks after a luncheon in Hillsboro, Ore.
updated 7/27/2011 9:51:11 AM ET 2011-07-27T13:51:11

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."

Video: Congressman accused of ‘unwanted sexual encounter’ (on this page)

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.

Video: Rep. Wu to resign after teen sex allegations (on this page)

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.

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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.

Wu and other VIPs who quit amid sex scandals

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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Video: Rep. Wu to resign over sex scandal

  1. Transcript of: Rep. Wu to resign over sex scandal

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Washington, DC): For the second time in six weeks, a Democratic congressman is resigning because of a sex scandal. This time it is Representative David Wu from Portland , Oregon . He's facing allegations of an unwanted encounter with an 18-year-old woman. Wu says it was consensual, but he's decided to quit out of concern for his family and his colleagues. This is the same member of Congress who recently became known for the photo that appeared all over the Web showing him in a tiger suit. And regarding the timing of his resignation, Congressman Wu says his departure date is uncertain, but it will be after this debt fight is over here in Washington because the Democrats need every vote.

Photos: Sex scandals and elected officials

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  1. David Wu

    Oregon Democratic Congressman David Wu speaks after a luncheon in Hillsboro, Ore, March, 7, 2011. Wu announced his resignation on July 24, 2011, amid political fallout from an 18-year-old woman's allegations she had an unwanted sexual encounter with him. The seven-term congressman was the subject of news stories of unusual behavior earlier in the year and several of his staff had resigned. (Don Ryan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Anthony Weiner

    Rep. Anthony Weiner speaks during a press conference at a hotel in New York on June 6, 2011, where he admitted that he had communicated with women online before and after his marriage and sent them explicit photos. (Andrew Gombert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Following the announcement of the couple's separation in 2011, Schwarzenegger said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff. In the photo, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver greet supporters before he is sworn in for second term on January 5, 2007 in Sacramento, Calif. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Chris Lee

    Left: House Speaker John Boehner, left, shakes hands with Rep. Chris Lee, alongside members of Lee's family during a mock swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill on Jan. 5, 2011. His wife, Michele, holds the bible and his son Johnathan, leans against his dad. Lee abruptly resigned his seat on Feb. 9, after a gossip web site, Gawker, reported that Lee had sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist (right). Gawker.com printed a series of e-mails which the lawmaker apparently had exchanged with the woman, who asked not to be identified. (AP, Gawker) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Mark Sanford

    After going AWOL for seven days, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted on June 24, 2009 that he'd secretly flown to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he'd been having an affair. The married politician, who’s also a father of four, said he’d known the woman for eight years. "What I did was wrong. Period," he said. (Davis Turner / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. John Ensign

    On June 16, 2009, Sen. John Ensign announced that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer who was then employed as one of his top aides. The senator said he disclosed the relationship after an attorney for the woman’s husband made "exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits." (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. John Edwards

    In this image taken from video and released by ABC News, Bob Woodruff interviews John Edwards Friday, Aug. 8, 2008 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The former North Carolina senator, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004, confessed to ABC News that he had lied repeatedly about the affair with 42-year-old Rielle Hunter.

    At the time, he denied fathering a baby with Hunter, but on Jan. 21, 2009, he released a statement exclusively to NBC News admitting that was was indeed the father of Francis Quinn Hunter. (ABC News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Eliot Spitzer

    New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, addresses reporters with his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, at his office in New York, apologizing for a "private matter" but making no reference to a March 10, 2008, New York Times report linking him to a prostitution ring. Spitzer resigned later that week. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Larry Craig

    Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after being arrested in June 2007 in a Minneapolis airport restroom. The undercover officer who arrested him said Craig tapped his feet and swiped his hand under a stall divider in a way that signaled he wanted sex. Craig appealed, arguing that the law is invalid. He insisted that his actions were misconstrued and that he is not gay. He said he pleaded guilty in hopes of resolving the matter quietly (Troy Maben / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. David Vitter

    Sen. David Vitter, R-La., acknowledged in July 2007 that his Washington phone number was among those called several years before by an escort service. The admission came after Hustler magazine told the senator that his telephone number was linked to the service. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Antonio Villaraigosa

    Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, walks with Mirthala Salinas, then a reporter for Telemundo 52, on the north steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento in June 2006. Villaraigosa later acknowledged he was involved in a romantic relationship with Salinas. (Robert Durell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Mark Foley

    Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., abruptly resigned in September 2006 after reports that he sent sexual messages to teenage male congressional pages. The Foley scandal helped Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives in the November 2006 elections. (Lawrence Jackson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. James McGreevey

    Dina Matos McGreevey stands next to her husband, Gov. James McGreevey, a Democrat, as he announces his resignation during a 2004 news conference in Trenton, N.J. McGreevey admitted he is homosexual and had an extramarital affair with another man, Golan Cipel, pictured right. McGreevey later wrote a book, "The Confession," about his life; Dina Matos McGreevey also later wrote a book, "Silent Partner," about their marriage. (AP photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Jack Ryan

    Jack Ryan, a Republican, dropped out of the 2004 Senate race in Illinois when his wife, TV actress Jeri Lynn Ryan, filed divorce papers that alleged he had taken her to "bizarre clubs" and asked her to have sex in front of other people. Ryan denied that but acknowledged they went to one avant-garde club in Paris where they both felt creepy. Ryan's Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, easily won the Illinois seat. (Stephen J. Carrera / ASSOCIATED PRESS) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Bob Livingston

    Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., was on the verge of becoming House speaker in 1998 when he acknowledged straying in his marriage. He resigned from Congress a couple of months later. (Khue Bui / AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bill Clinton

    President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, gave evasive and misleading testimony under oath and publicly denied having sexual relations with former intern Monica Lewinsky, only to be forced into a humiliating reversal. He was impeached by the House and then acquitted in a 1999 Senate trial. (APTV file) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Bob Packwood

    Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., resigned in 1995 amid allegations he made unwanted sexual advances to 17 female employees and colleagues, solicited jobs from lobbyists for his former wife, and altered his personal diaries to obstruct an ethics investigation. (Nathaniel Harari / Congressional Quarterly/Getty Im) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Barney Frank

    Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was reprimanded by the House in 1989 for using his influence on behalf of male prostitute Stephen Gobie. Frank admitted paying Gobie for sex, hiring him with his own money as an aide and writing a letter on his behalf. Frank faced constituents at a meeting until they ran out of questions, acknowledging, "I did not handle the pressures of having a public life, of being a closeted gay man, nearly as well as I should have." He has won re-election ever since. (Terry Ashe / Time Life Pictures - Getty Image) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Gary Hart

    Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., was a front-runner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when The Miami Herald reported he'd spent a night and a day with a young woman while his wife was away. Hart, who had challenged the press to check on rumors of philandering, initially denounced the report. But his liaison with Donna Rice, who had been photographed sitting on his lap near a yacht named "Monkey Business," sank his campaign. (Steve Liss / Time Life Pictures via Getty Ima) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Dan Crane

    Rep. Dan Crane, R-Ill., left, cries as he talks to reporters in 1983. Crane said he was sorry he hurt his family by having an affair with a 17-year-old congressional page. Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., right, speaks to reporters on the steps of the Capitol. The House ethics committee cited Studds and Crane for misconduct for sexual activity with teen pages. (AP file photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Wilbur D. Mills

    Rep. Wilbur D. Mills, D-Ark., stands with Fanne Foxe, an exotic dancer. Mills sparked controversy in 1974 when police in Washington stopped his car for not having its headlights on. Although Mills was not driving, he was drunk, and Foxe jumped out of the car and into the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. The episode caused Mills' downfall. (AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
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