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Race to replace Wu

Gov. John Kitzhaber set a special election in late January to replace beleaguered Congressman David Wu, who officially resigned in disgrace Aug. 3.

Kitzhaber said a special primary election would be scheduled Nov. 8, with the special election set for Jan. 31, 2012.

State law mandates that a primary election be used to select Republican and Democratic nominees because the Jan. 31, 2012, general election is more than 80 days after Wu's resignation.

'I have received a letter of resignation from Congressman David Wu and am working with the Secretary of State's office on a special election process,' Kitzhaber said. 'Holding both a primary and general election allows the voters of the 1st Congressional District full participation in selecting a replacement.'

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown said Thursday major party candidates have until Aug. 15 to file for the November primary election. Ballots will be mailed beginning Oct. 21.

Minor party candidates will have until Dec. 1 to file for the January special election. Ballots for that election will be mailed in mid-January, Brown said.

Kitzhaber's decision came a couple of hours after Wu left office. Wu said his 'time has come.'

With a formal notice to Kitzhaber and House Speaker John Boehner, Wu was no longer a U.S. representative as of 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 3. The 1st District office remains open under authority of the U.S. House of Representatives clerk's office, which has retained Wu's former staff.

'However great the honor and engaging the work, there comes a time to hand on the privilege of elected office - and that time has come,' Wu said in a statement.

The seven-term 1st District lawmaker has fulfilled his pledge to resign once the debt ceiling crisis was averted. He voted in favor of the controversial debt limit bill that President Obama signed into law last week.

Senators call for resignation

Wu leaves in disgrace after a team of reporters at The Oregonian shined light on allegations July 22 that the politician had an unwanted - and still undisclosed - sexual encounter with an 18-year-old daughter of a friend and campaign donor a few weeks after he was reelected to the House of Representatives last November.

Although Wu has remained mostly tight-lipped about the allegations, he has reportedly told staff the encounter was consensual and he broke no laws.

As the news spread and fellow politicians and supporters distanced themselves, Wu initially said he would finish his term, but not run for re-election.

The decision drew the ire of many on both sides of the aisle, who implored him to step down immediately. After House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would open an ethics investigation and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley publicly called for him to resign, Wu said he would quit.

The senators called the accusations against Wu 'both jarring and exceptionally serious.'

Here is Wu's statement:

'Serving as a U.S. Congressman has been the greatest honor of my life. There is no other job where you get up each day and ask, 'How can I try to make the world a better place today?'

Particularly meaningful to me has been working for more and better investments in science and education. Also, I believe that my support for people who struggle for human rights and civil liberties will ultimately bear fruit in a world that is more just and peaceful.

However great the honor and engaging the work, there comes a time to hand on the privilege of elected office - and that time has come.'

Candidate field grows

Two more high-profile candidates made it official last week that they would run for Wu's seat: Republican businessman Rob Cornilles, who lost to Wu in last November's election, and Democratic state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici who has nearly matched Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, a Democrat, in campaign contributions in only a few days.

Cornilles is the founder of Game Face Inc. in Tualatin. When he officially announced his candidacy on Aug. 4 he said he was 'frustrated that such a vibrant and diverse area as the 1st Congressional District has been largely forgotten and poorly represented in Congress for far too long.'

Bonamici was elected to the Oregon House in 2006, was appointed and elected to the state Senate in 2008 and re-elected in 2010. She represents District 17, which includes large sections of Beaverton, Aloha, Northwest Portland and rural Washington County.

'The people of Oregon's 1st District need a representative in Congress who will stand up for them - for their jobs and economic future, for the small businesses of our communities and for middle-class families who are struggling through this tough economy,' Bonamici said.

Bonamici's campaign has raised more than $240,000 in contributions and pledges.

Those candidates join Avakian and Democratic state Rep. Brad Witt, who announced they would challenge Wu before the latest sex scandal broke.

Going from having nearly 10 months to campaign for his party's primary for the 1st District seat to now only having until early November to plead his case to Democratic voters, Witt said his campaign is now in full-on sprint mode.

'What we thought was going to be a marathon process has been turned into a veritable sprint,' Witt said.

To stay in the crowded race, Witt said he would continue to meet with as many business and citizen groups as possible to spread his message of sustainable-minded workforce and economic development. Witt recently made a splash when the Governor signed his bill banning the trade of shark fins in Oregon into law Aug. 4.

Witt joined the race after the most recent federal deadline to submit his campaign finances, but - without giving specific numbers - he said he is competitive with the big money already raised by Avakian and Bonamici.

ANALYSIS

Professor's thoughts on the 1st District race

Jim Moore, Pacific University professor and director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation gives his thoughts on the sprint for David Wu's now-vacant 1st Congressional District seat. Here are a few of his educated opinions:

Where do the Democrats stand?

'[Suzanne] Bonamici announced that she's raised about as much money as [Brad] Avakian, almost over night. She and Avakian seem to be the two frontrunners at this point.'

Only Tualatin businessman Rob Cornilles has stepped up for the Republicans. Where does the GOP stand?

The Republicans need higher profile candidates, more registered voters, and a large infusion of money to introduce the candidates to the electorate.

Bonamici's husband David Simon is a former attorney to Wu. Can this be used as a wedge against her?

'No. Wu is yesterday's news. The economy dominates the election. If Avakian tries it, he'll be seen as using negative campaigning (by Oregon standards).

Which frontrunner has the advantage, Bonamici or Avakian?

'Bonamici has an immediate infusion of cash, so that could be an advantage. Other than that, unless she lines up a pretty impressive list of major endorsements, she has no advantage over Avakian. She is even more unknown than he is within CD1.'

-Interview by Christian Gaston