David Wu under fire for alleged "unwanted sexual behavior"

A December 2010 file photo of Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.).
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi formally asked the House Ethics committee today to investigate allegations that Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., engaged in "aggressive and unwanted sexual behavior" with a young woman.

National Democratic leaders have stopped short of calling for Wu's resignation, but some of Wu's challengers in the Democratic party say the seven-term congressman should step aside. Wu has yet to publicly address how this allegation will impact his political future, but an unnamed adviser tells Politico the congressman plans to stay in office but will not run for re-election next year.

Whether he were to resign or retire, Wu's departure should help Democrats hold onto a seat that has been solidly blue but shifted rightward after redistricting. Last week's allegation against Wu is the latest in a series of charges that the congressman has engaged in questionable behavior, which has put Oregon's first congressional district in the spotlight.

Earlier this year, Wu acknowledged that he sent erratic emails to his staffers, including a picture of himself around Halloween in a tiger costume. Several of his staff members resigned following his re-election in November, and Oregon newspapers reported that his campaign staffers had pleaded with Wu to seek psychiatric help the week before the 2010 election. Wu said in February he has sought mental health treatment, including counseling and medication.

Ahead of the 2004 election, Wu had to apologize for "inexcusable behavior" during his college years. His opponent in the race had seized on the fact that his former girlfriend claimed Wu tried to sexually assault her while they were students at Stanford University in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, in 2007, Wu was mocked for saying on the House floor that "there are Klingons in the White House."

Wu has held onto his seat since 1999, and Democrats have held the seat since 1975. If Wu were to resign, Democrats could have a chance to replace him in a special election and thus have an incumbent in office by 2012.

Depending on the timing of the special election, the Democratic party could either choose its candidate by convention or in a special election primary. In either case, Democrats may want more time for a clear candidate to emerge. Already, multiple Democrats were preparing to challenge Wu in the 2012 primary, including state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Rep. Brat Witt.

Update: The Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division says that any special election this fall would be held under the old district map, Democratic strategist Kari Chisholm reports at the website Blue Oregon. That would make it easier for Democrats to hold onto Wu's seat.