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Wu oops! Lets move forward

The Congressman known as an ineffective geek will now be remembered as a dirty old man.

The litany of David Wu's recent transgressions is as long as it is tawdry, but the embattled Congressman managed to do a couple things right in the past few days.

First, while he hasn't said much about the allegations of sexual misconduct, he hasn't denied or minimized them. More important, he's agreed to step down.

Until last weekend it looked like Wu would survive the questions surrounding his staff resignations, prescription drug habits and the now-infamous tiger-suit photos.

But Friday evening, The Oregonian reported that Wu's Portland office received a phone message this spring from the distraught 18-year-old daughter of a supporter who claimed the 56-year-old Congressman from Oregon's First District had engaged in 'unwanted and aggressive sexual behavior' involving her over the Thanksgiving holiday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Wu had not commented publicly about the story, but after three days of vowing to stay in office, he issued a brief statement saying he will resign once Congress votes on the nation's debt limit.

It's a sad ending to what had been a promising beginning 15 years ago, when a nerdy political outsider seemed a good fit for a high-tech district with an independent streak. Wu, however, never was able to fit in on Capitol Hill. He never had any influence and now he's lost face. The Congressman once known as a quirky, ineffective geek seems destined to be remembered as a dirty old man.

Wu's resignation will spare him the indignity of a House ethics probe and it allows district voters to focus on the future.

Toward that end, we applaud Gov. John Kitzhaber for choosing a special election schedule that will allows voters, not political parties, to select the candidates for a general election to fill the soon-to-be open seat.

It's been 15 years since voters in both major parties had real choices in this district, which sprawls from Northwest Portland to the North Oregon Coast.

For Republicans, who couldn't oust Wu during last fall's big GOP year, this represents their best and possibly last (at least for a while) chance to claim a seat Democrats have held for more than three decades.

For everyone, it's a chance to find someone who can work with local officials on projects ranging from expanded light rail service and a new dam at Hagg Lake to forest policy and support for the high-tech and alternative energy industries.

Voters must make the candidates articulate clearly where they stand on such issues, and not let them (or their parties) make this a national referendum on President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, Sarah Palin, taxes, the Tea Party, labor unions or the ghost of men in tiger suits.

Finally, as people seek lessons from this sordid chapter in Oregon political history, we'll offer an obvious, but important, one: An adult in a position of power who engages in any type of sexual activity with a teenager has entered indefensible territory by anyone's moral compass. It was true for Neil Goldschmidt. It was true for Sam Adams. And it is true for David Wu.

If the congressman thinks that by resigning he can put the recent revelations behind him, he's wrong. His past conduct does matter and he still needs to be held accountable.

But for voters in the First District, Wu's Tuesday announcement allows them look forward to a beginning.

Let's hope this one ends more happily than the last one.