Rep. David Wu (D)
Oregon 1st District
Post-modern skyscrapers rising above the riverfront and below a range of hills: This is downtown Portland. The city—which would have been named Boston if a coin toss had gone the other way—started here, along the Willamette River just before it flows into the Columbia. Downtown Portland was built on the narrow strip of land west of the river and below the hills, not on the flat expanse that stretches east toward the snow-capped peak of Mount Hood. It was once a dowdy place, proper in a New England kind of way, with a few formal buildings above the warehouses and factories. But in the last 30 years, there has been an explosion of affluence and creativity here, symbolized by handsome high-rises—the pyramid-crested brick KOIN Tower, the wedge-shaped Justice Center—restored Victorian storefronts, a downtown transit trolley, and a light-rail line known as MAX (for Metropolitan Area Express). There is a free wireless network in Pioneer Courthouse Square, and just across the river is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The well-to-do neighborhoods in the hills overlooking downtown are full of old lumber barons’ mansions with splendid views.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Just over the hills are the valleys and interstices between green mountains of suburban Washington County. This was once farm country, with 39,000 people in 1940; now it has 522,000 and is an integral part of metro Portland. It continues to be fast-growing; the population rose 68% between 1990 and 2007. And it enjoys a high-tech, healthy-lifestyle affluence. Its towns are cushioned by protected forests and anchored by major employers that include Tektronix, Intel, IBM, Columbia Sportswear, and Adidas. Beaverton has the world headquarters of Nike, housed in 16 buildings spread over 178 acres. Like Silicon Valley, the Silicon Forest has an environment that appeals to a highly skilled workforce: Nestled at the foot of mountains, it is woodsy and even rustic, but it’s outfitted with all the comforts of modern life. As they say locally, wood chips have been replaced by computer chips.
The 1st Congressional District of Oregon includes downtown Portland and its western hills, and all of suburban Washington County. The 1st also proceeds nearly 100 miles northwest from Portland along the Columbia River to the rain-swept port of Astoria on the Pacific Coast, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-06 at what is now the Fort Clatsop National Memorial. To the southwest is Yamhill County, a prime location for turkey farms during the 1960s but lately the site of metro expansion. Beaverton has become known for its wineries, and coastal Newport is popular for its oysters. Like Oregon, the 1st District is historically New England Republican, electing only GOP members of Congress from 1892 to 1972. Like New England, it then trended sharply left on cultural issues, even as its high-tech economy brought new affluence. Starting in 1974, it has elected only Democrats. In 2004, John Kerry won the district 55%-44%, and in 2008, Barack Obama won it with 61%.
Rep. David Wu (D)
Elected: 1998, 6th term.
Born: April 8, 1955, Hsinchu, Taiwan .
Education: Stanford U., B.S. 1977; Harvard Med. Schl., 1978; Yale Law Schl., J.D. 1982.
Family: Married (Michelle); 2 children.
Professional Career: Law clerk, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1982-83; Campaign staff, Gary Hart for president, 1984; Practicing atty., 1984-98.
The congressman from the 1st District is David Wu, a Democrat elected in 1998 and the first Chinese-American to serve in the House. He was born in Taiwan in 1955 and came to the United States with his family to join his father, who was studying at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in 1961. He grew up mostly in Orange County, Calif., graduated from Stanford, started medical school at Harvard, and then switched to law school at Yale. He clerked for a federal judge in Portland and settled there. He worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in 1980 and Gary Hart’s in 1984. He started his own law firm in 1988 and served on the Portland Planning Commission. When the House seat became available, the Democratic front-runner was Linda Peters, who was well known as the Washington County Board chairwoman and had the financial backing of EMILY’s List. Wu left his law practice and spent $100,000 of his own money. He attacked Peters in ads for taking a personal loan from a developer and accused her of misspending tax dollars while traveling on county business. He won the primary 52%-43%. The Republican nominee, 29-year-old Molly Bordonaro, the daughter of a prominent real estate businessman in Portland, came out of the primary with more money than Wu and a more united party behind her. She and Wu were running even in the polls. With help from national Democrats and labor unions, Wu caught up on fundraising. He used his life story to extol America’s system of education and to call for more spending on Head Start (his wife was a Head Start teacher) early education and aid to college students. He won 50%-47%.
|David Wu (D)||237,567||(72%)||($1,214,535)|
|Joel Haugen (I)||58,279||(18%)||($7,563)|
|Scott Semrau (CNP)||14,172||(4%)|
|H. Joe Tabor (Lib)||10,992||(3%)|
|Chris Henry (Green)||7,128||(2%)|
|David Wu (D)||91,466||(78%)|
|Will Hobbs (D)||19,659||(17%)|
|Mark Welyczko (D)||5,982||(5%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (63%), 2004 (58%), 2002 (63%), 2000 (58%), 1998 (50%)
In the House, Wu joined the New Democrat Coalition and developed a centrist voting record. With one notable exception, he has been a reliable Democratic vote on education, health care, abortion, and gun control. As chairman of the House Science panel’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, Wu has pushed for environmentally friendly transportation construction and has championed a bill to promote technology innovation. He angered local tech firms by voting against normal trade relations with China because of “the sacrifices of countless families like mine.” In November 2003, he had a rare moment in the national spotlight as one of only 16 House Democrats to vote for the Republican leadership’s Medicare prescription drug bill. During the extended, three-hour roll call, he sat stoically and silently among acutely displeased Democrats on the floor, looking as though he wanted to be anywhere else in the world. He said he has decided that the bill was good for his constituents but had promised his leaders that he would not cast his yea vote until a majority of House members had cast theirs. His was the final, and by then largely irrelevant, vote in support of the bill, which passed 220-215. Afterward, Wu conceded that he would have to mend fences with Democrats on Capitol Hill and at home. Redemption was slow to arrive. When the party took control of the House in 2007, other Oregon Democrats gained influence in the new majority while Wu remained a backbencher, criticized by some back home as increasingly marginalized. On the air, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh poked fun of Wu’s use of metaphors from the television program Star Trek to criticize President Bush’s policy in Iraq.
In the 2004 election, Wu faced spirited competition from Goli Ameri, an Iranian-born communications consultant who was new to politics but showed a good grasp of local economic issues and raised lots of money. Ameri supported Bush on the war in Iraq and tax cuts, but she differed with the administration on embryonic stem cell research, which she supported, and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which she opposed.
In mid-October, the Portland Oregonian published a lengthy article setting out in great detail allegations that Wu had sexually harassed and physically attacked a former girlfriend when they were both Stanford undergraduates. The newspaper reported that he was not arrested and that no criminal charges were filed, but that the university disciplined him and he privately apologized. After the story was published, Wu issued a statement taking responsibility and admitting to “inexcusable behavior.” Some Wu supporters questioned the newspaper’s decision to run the story so close to the election and just a few days after it had endorsed Ameri. In a debate three days later, Ameri raised the matter. “I cannot in good conscience stand here and pretend that violating the most fundamental human right, a woman’s safety, is merely a wrongdoing.” Wu replied that Ameri’s attack was “unfortunate.” She ran campaign ads featuring the incident, but the news story and the extensive coverage that followed appeared to cause little political harm to Wu. He won 58%-38%, carrying Washington County 55%-41%.
By 2006, the incident from his past had disappeared locally. Wu was re-elected 63%-34%, and his victory over state House majority whip and self-styled maverick Derrick Kitts was never in serious doubt. Kitts raised little money and Wu avoided debates. In 2008, Wu endorsed presidential contender Barack Obama a month before the Oregon primary, and Wu was easily re-elected over businessman Joel Haugen, an independent.