OR-1: Wu sheds staffers; complaints about odd behavior surface

Carla Axtman

For a number of months, I've heard scuttle that there were some unhappy folks among the staff of Democratic US Congressman David Wu. I've been privy to a slew of unsubstantiated rumors and stories--but nothing I've felt reached the level that could be reported.

The Oregonian has decided that the exodus of staff and contractors from Wu's team is significant enough to warrant mentioning.

Janie Har, The Oregonian:

Since the November election, U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., has lost at least six staffers plus the leadership of a veteran campaign team that guided him to a seventh term amid complaints about his public behavior.

The exodus includes Wu's longtime chief of staff Julie Tippens and communications director Julia Krahe, both in Washington, D.C. Krahe left without securing a job while Tippens took a similar position with a lawmaker with far less seniority.

In addition, Wu has lost virtually his entire political team -- people who have been with the Democrat for more than a decade -- including his chief fundraiser Lisa Kurdziel and chief pollster Lisa Grove, who told The Oregonian she wouldn't work for him again.

That's a pretty strong statement on the part of Grove. It seems unusually intense given the rest of Har's piece. Others who left are declining to comment.

Har goes on to note that Wu has a history of odd behavior, including a speech referring to Klingons and becoming "almost catatonic" during the 2003 Medicare prescription drug vote. Wu's unusual behavior extended into this campaign cycle. The Congressman held few public events--and when he did, complaints came rolling in about the way Wu was conducting himself.

Wu's personal life has been rough of late as well, he and his wife separated in August.

However, none of this seems to be a reasonable explanation for a significant exodus of staff and consultants. Nor does it seem to explain Grove's intense position--and why the entirety of those who've exited aren't talking.

Wu's support in the First Congressional District has generally been a mile wide and an inch deep--or at least that's how I've perceived it. I suspect Har's reporting won't help that situation.

Update: 2:15PM, January 19: Oregonian reporter Charles Pope also shares a byline for the piece I've attributed to Janie Har.

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    While the Klingon speech was widely ridiculed, I don't think it betrayed any underlying issues - other than a misjudgment about which metaphors people would get.

    But some of this other stuff is troublesome. Clearly, there's a lot we don't know here. But a mass staff exodus points to something problematic.

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      Agreed. There was nothing odd or bad about the "Klingon" speech. Only those with IQs around room temperature would find anything odd or goofy about it.

      But as you note, the staff exodus is troubling.

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    You didn't mention Wu's misuse of his position to get around TSA security at PDX so he could meet and greet potential voters getting off a flight after asking a TSA supervisor "to bend the rules."

    Imagine the Left's reaction if Rob Cornilles did that during the campaign.

    Then again, Wu reportedly stopped drinking July 1.

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      That part is in Har's full story, which I've linked. There are also a couple of other incidents she cites that I haven't specifically listed. I highly recommend clicking through and reading Har's piece.

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    His behavior appears to be a loud cry for help even if he doesn't believe he needs help. Very sad.

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    As one friend of mine has noted, in this environment -- at a time when it's hard to find work, especially for Democratic congressional staffers -- there must be something seriously wrong here for this many people to leave, especially without other jobs lined up.

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      And the question that David has to answer is whether he is keeping his position as a congressman to keep a job or because he believes he has a real role to play at this time.

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    There may be another shoe waiting to drop, but my read of the Oregonian article is that it was more notable as a hit piece than as a straight news story.

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      Well, the most interesting stuff in the O's piece is what's left unsaid, but plainly obvious between the lines.

      Stories like this one tend to bring people out of the woodwork to flesh out the details.

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      Wu's not my favorite politician, but I have to agree with Sal. After reading the story in the O, I went back over it and thought there was more innuendo than substance to the staff leaving. His behavior sure doesn't make me proud of him though.

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    So I'll be the first to ask the obvious question that's lurking:

    Will Wu get a primary challenge if he runs for reelection?

    Who could conceivably have a chance to defeat him in a Democratic primary?

    I'll risk an alphabetized short-list. Apologies ahead of time both to those of you who are horrified to be listed and those of you insulted for being left out.

    • Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian
    • Senator Suzanne Bonamici
    • OBA President Ryan Deckert
    • Rep. Chris Garrett
    • Senator Mark Haas
    • Rep. Mary Nolan
    • Rep. Tobias Read
    • Rep. Brad Witt

    Of course, you may more likely wind up with a serious challenger who's not a current elected official. Ron Wyden was not an elected when he primaried a Democratic congressman in 1980 . . .

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      Better question: Could there be a special election before 2012?

      As for your short list, don't forget that the west side of Portland is in the district too - as are Columbia, Clatsop, and Yamhill counties.

      Also, there's no legal requirement that an individual running has to live in the district. A political issue perhaps, but voters haven't seemed to have cared about last-minute movers for the legislature, anyway.

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        Really Kari? I think it hurt Will Rasmussen a bit.

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          What may have hurt Will was the accusations that he wasn't entirely on the up-and-up about it. Also, that he was running in a tough GOP district in a tough GOP year.

          Didn't hurt Jefferson Smith. Didn't hurt Greg Macpherson. Didn't hurt Chris Garrett.

          There's a long, long list of legislators that have jumped into a district shortly before the deadline.

          In terms of congressionals, one recent example is Jay Inslee - who was a Congressman from central Washington, lost his race in 1994, then was elected to Congress from western Washington in 1998.

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    Wu is only in office because of the new congressional district lines that were drawn after the last census. The 1st districts new lines carvecd off just enough of the crazy left wing portland / multnomah county party line population to ensure that any D who occupied that position would not be beatable under almost any circumstances. Wu has been terrible for the 1st dirstict, terrible for Oregon and terrible for the US. Whatever it takes to launch this guy should be done and the sooner the better

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    Question, if you knew Wu was having issues (come on Klingon? Really?)why did y'all vote for him in the first place?

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