What's your reaction following Rep. Wu's KGW interview?
PORTLAND -- Former staff members for U.S. Congressman David Wu, D-Ore., have started speaking out about why they left.
Key members of Wu's staff wanted him to get psychiatric help just days before the November 2010 election.
Background: Rep. Wu urged to get psychiatric help, report says
Since the election, six staff members of and most of Wu’s political team have resigned.
Staffers who walked away said representative Wu made bizarre statements to them and his constituents. They also claim he wouldn't listen when they tried to get him to talk to a psychiatrist.
More: Exodus by Wu's top staff
Political analyst Len Bergstein said the staffers’ message was clear. They’re feeling “the sense that ‘Wait a minute, my reputation is on the line too, as a staff person, and I’m not going down with the ship.’"
As previously reported by KGW's news partner The Oregonian, staffers became alarmed by Wu’s behavior.
For example, during a floor speech a few years ago, Wu referred to the people in the White House as “Klingons,” rather than Vulcans.
More recently, a Wu supporter formally complained about the tone of an October campaign speech.
Critics noted that the congressman was at a loss for words during an appearance on Newschannel 8's Straight Talkin September.
Wu also caused a stir at Portland International Airport, by moving into a secure area without being screened.
In a statement released late Friday, Wu said he was dealing with the death of his father and a divorce.
He went on to say, “I fully acknowledge that I could have dealt with these difficult circumstances better, and I remain focused on being a good father to my children and a strong representative for the people of Oregon."
Voters in Wu’s district had differing viewpoints on the controversy.
Christopher Sonsteng told KGW, “If someone has psychological issues, that can definitely affect their job performance.”
Voter Ann Lang said, “I don't know enough to pass any judgment on him.”
As voters try to make sense of things, other politicians are likely making plans, Bergstein said. “There are a lot of politicians waiting in line--elected officials who think, ‘Gee, well maybe I'm a better choice for the first congressional district.’ So I think people are waiting in the wings for something to happen here.”
In Wu's statement, he also said he was not always at his best with staff or constituents, and that he's now getting professional medical care.
Redistricting could influence 2012 election
Wu, a Yale Law School graduate born in Taiwan, was first elected to the U.S. House in 1998. He's maintained a low profile in Congress, save for his occasional appearances in unflattering news stories.
Just weeks before the 2004 election, Wu apologized for "inexcusable behavior" after reports surfaced that a former girlfriend once claimed that he tried to sexually assault her while both were students at Stanford University in the 1970s.
No charges were filed in the case, but Wu's opponent seized on the allegation to argue he was unfit for office.
Wu won a fourth term that year with 58 percent of the vote. He was re-elected once again in 2008 with 72 percent of the vote.
"If Congressman Wu is having some problems I hope he gets help," said Meredith Wood Smith, chair of the state Democratic Party. "I still think that the 1st District is in good hands and that it will continue to be."
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declined to comment on Wu's latest situation.
A number of factors will determine Wu's political future if he decides to seek re-election in his district covering northwestern Oregon and the western part of the Portland metro area.
He'll have plenty of time to repair his image before the 2012 election, but the biggest factor is outside his control. State lawmakers will redraw the congressional district boundaries to reflect population shifts documented in the 2010 Census. It's anyone's guess how friendly the new territory will be for the incumbent Democrat.
Derrick Kitts, Wu's 2006 Republican rival, said he's surprised Wu has managed to consistently win re-election despite his antics.
"If he's incapable of taking care of himself and doing the right thing, he's incapable of taking care of the people of Oregon," Kitts said. "That's his job, and it's impossible for that kind of job to be done with this type of behavior."
To aid his political survival, Wu needs to check himself into a hospital or make some other public show of trying to fix his situation, said Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University outside Portland.
Still, despite the public embarrassments, Moore said, "he's a very strong incumbent."