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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 02/23/2011

What's next for Oregon Rep. David Wu?

By Rachel Weiner

Oregon Democratic Rep. David Wu has had a tough few weeks.

First, the Portland Oregonian reported that just days before the 2010 election Wu's staff confronted him about his increasingly erratic behavior and urged him to enter a psychiatric hospital for counseling.

Then on Tuesday, Wu sat for an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in which he admitted to sending "unprofessional" emails to members of his staff -- including a picture of him dressed as a tiger for Halloween (not kidding) -- but insisted that he had addressed his mental health issues and was now on firmer ground.

Later that day, the Oregonian confirmed that Wu had taken un-prescribed Oxycodone from a campaign donor in October 2010.

On Wednesday a local paper -- the Register-Guard -- called on Wu to resign because of his lack of candor, not his mental health.

"Wu should have been forthcoming about his medical treatment when it began," the paper, which is not in Wu's Portland-area district, wrote. "Wu can recover his health, but public trust is lost forever. He should step down."

Local Republicans are echoing that call.

"We're all concerned about David and his health and well-being," said Oregon Republican Party Chairman Allen Alley. "The most important thing is for David to get the help that he needs."

Democrats have been far more quiet when asked about Wu's future.

"David may have some issues and if it was anybody else besides a politician most people would be getting him help rather than try to beat him up," Oregon Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore) told a local news station. Said Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley: "If he's having a hard time, I wish him all the best in figuring it out."

In his sit-down with Stephanopoulos, Wu blamed the stresses of his 2010 campaign for his struggles.

In that race, Wu faced a serious challenge Rob Cornilles, head of a sports consulting company. In their only debate, audience members laughed at Wu after he remarked that he wouldn't vote for more spending in Washington.

The Oregonian endorsed Cornilles, saying "voters can legitimately wonder whether 12 years in the House should have produced a more prominent force in the Capitol."

There were questions about Wu's behavior during the campaign but nothing that was substantiated. "I've always heard rumors, but to me there were always rumors," Cornilles said. "I instructed my campaign that we would not promulgate rumors; we would stay focused on the issues."

Despite the clear Democratic lean of the district where President Obama won 61 percent in 2008, Wu won with 55 percent of the vote, his smallest margin in a decade.

Cornilles has floated the idea of running again. "I'm keeping an open mind, spending some necessary time with my family and with my business," he told the Fix. "Just keeping my options open and trying to stay involved."

If Wu stepped aside and a special election were called, it "would be a game-time decision," depending "on a lot of factors both personal and public," said Cornilles.

Assuming Wu stays put and avoids any future public incidents, he's likely to hold onto the seat due to it's Democratic bent -- particularly in a presidential year.

But, further erratic behavior could well seriously endanger Wu heading into 2012 and force national Democrats to re-assess whether he is the best person to keep the seat in the Democratic column going forward.

By Rachel Weiner  | February 23, 2011; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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