This Tuesday, voters in Oregon’s First Congressional District will take part in a great American tradition. No, not just voting; replacing.
We’re talking about replacing an elected official who resigned following a political scandal. The only thing Americans love more than a good Holocaust movie is a political scandal, and voters in the Northwest are no exception. Come with us on a journey through three of our favorite, most disgraceful moments in Pacific politics.
Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be writing about you here.
The Candidate: James E. West (R), Mayor of Spokane, WA (2003-2005)
West, Jim West. Desperado. Wait. Maybe we’re thinking of a different James West here.
James West, as a Washington state senator, built up a career based on conservative and family values. By this of course we mean legislating against gay rights and sexuality in general, including co-sponsoring a bill that would have prevented homosexuals from working in any job that came in contact with children. When he resigned his seat in the state Senate to run for Mayor of Spokanistan his habits were quick to follow.
The Platform: Do we even need to tell you?
Spokane newspaper The Spokesman Review conducted a sting operation against the mayor in which they attempted to determine if the online person of a gay.com regular ‘Cobra82’ was their favorite local dignitary. In the months that followed, West admitted to several sexual encounters with adult men. In later interviews he mentioned that he was curious about the lifestyle after his marriage ended, and became ‘sucked in’ to the online world of gay dating. Make your own jokes about getting ‘sucked in’ to the gay lifestyle, but We Out Here finds nothing shameful about these actions; only the fact that he covered them with bigoted legislation and had to hide them from his constituents for fear of losing their support.
The more serious allegations were of sexual abuse of a minor while he worked with the Boy Scouts of America in the early 80’s. The allegations were never proven, and the FBI’s investigation into West’s behavior was closed due to a lack of evidence. The charges stuck in the court of public opinion, however, and in December of 2005 the people of Spokane elected West as mayor of the unemployment line.
The Candidate: Sam Adams (D), Mayor of Portland, OR (2009-Present)
Not every gay sex scandal has to ruin your career. Turns out, if the public already knows you’re gay, they are way less likely to care about you doing gay things. Good to know.
Sam Adams, in 2008, was vying to replace previous mayor Tom Potter in a heated contest that saw despicable allegations from other potential candidates being hurled at the honorable Adams. Robert Ball, a Portland real estate developer considering a run for mayor himself, accused Adams of engaging in a sexual relationship with a young man being mentored by Adams during his tenure on the Portland city council.
Calling a press conference to refute the allegations, Adams vehemently denied any wrong doing. His denial was so forceful, so indignant, that his popularity soared and he easily won the election. Adams took office on January 1, 2009.
The Platform: “Oh, you mean that 18 year old.”
And then within 30 days admitted to a past sexual relationship with a then-18 years old Beau Breedlove.
“Ugh…you guys, it’s not a big deal.”
A recall campaign by conservative opponents, which lasted most of his first year in office, failed to get enough signatures to put the mayor’s fate before the voters. While the admission didn’t cost him his job, it did severely damage the man’s national reputation.
As the first openly gay mayor to preside over as large a city as Portland, Adams had built a high profile on the national political scene. He was a poster-child for gay rights and, after his revelations, a poster-child for the ‘corruption of the gay lifestyle.’ Mr. Adams’ timing of his admission was cynical at best and defrauding his voters at worst.
He announced last year that he would not be seeking a second term as mayor. It’s difficult to determine whether the lack of trust his lying engendered led to that decision, but we can at least thank Adams for giving the public a great series of jokes about how, at least in Portland, you don’t have to be 21 to enjoy a Sam Adams.
The Candidate: David Wu (D), U.S. Rep., Oregon’s First Congressional District (1998-2011)
Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998, David Wu was the first Chinese-American to serve in the House. The groundbreaking politician represented his district well, voting with a clear liberal record for the consistently Democratic constituency. Wu was consistent, reliable, and well-liked.
Unfortunate, then, that during his campaign for re-election in 2010 his back began to hurt.
A very important part of serving in public life is to have a smart, capable group of people at hand to advise and help you. You need to be careful selecting your advisors, and one way to do that is to judge the quality of their advice. “David, here is some more Ambien for you,” “I don’t think these medications will conflict,” and, “She looks eighteen to me!” are examples of poor, if well intentioned, pieces of advice.
But the guy that says, “What a funny picture of you in a tiger suit! Mind if I send this to Willamette Week?” David, fire that guy!
The Platform: Cray-cray.
If there is one thing Oregon voters don’t mind, it’s unusual politicians. You residents of Silverton know what we’re talking about (Hi, Stu!), and a glance upward in the column shows that we can be forgiving to a fault. So when, amid reports of erratic behavior and aggressive attitudes towards his staffers, this picture was leaked to the press…
…David probably thought he could count on easy re-elections for life.
Even when staffers quit en masse after his successful campaign, few people shook their heads. His reports of behaving badly were attributed to pain and mental health medication having unintended side effects (see photo). Harder to ignore though, even in Washington county, was the allegation of unwanted sexual contact from the 18-year-old daughter of a campaign donor.
Now, when you visit the website for the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, you can find a special note under the page for Oregon’s First Congressional District. The honorable David Wu, it says, resigned on August 3, 2011. This seems a little unfair to the congressman’s legacy. To say the honorable Mr. Wu resigned his office is factually correct, but lacking in context.
The context is this: Tiger suit? Yes. Sexy time? No.
Tell us about your favorite personal scandal! Sex? Drugs? Sex with drugs? Let it all out!