David Wu, the Oregon Democrat who formerly represented the 1st congressional district, finally did one thing right when he agreed to resign from his congressional seat. But he even flubbed that singular task by delaying his resignation until after Congress dealy with the issue of raising the nation's debt ceiling.
At that point, we don't believe Wu had much to offer anyone as a representative - and we certainly don't think he held the key to breaking the political deadlock on the debt limit. Even before The Oregonian reported that Wu had been accused by an 18-year-old girl of "unwanted and aggressive sexual behavior," the congressman had been marginalized, ridiculed and pretty well deemed irrelevant.
Wu's downward spiral was already well under way following mass staff resignations, revelations about his prescription drug habits and the now-infamous tiger-suit photos.
His political demise is 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 find his place on Capitol Hill. He never had any influence, and now he's embarrassed all of us. 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 allow voters, not political parties, to select the candidates for a general election to fill the 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 a man in a tiger suit.
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 1st District, Wu's resignation allows them look forward to a new beginning. Let's hope this one ends more happily than the last one.