SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A top Oregon Democrat and former supporter of Congressman David Wu said Wednesday he will be endorsing the Democratic primary challenger instead, calling Wu "damaged goods."
Bill Bradbury, a former secretary of state and 2010 gubernatorial candidate, supported Wu's last re-election campaign and worked for him on several fundraisers. But Bradbury said Wednesday it's time for a change and he's throwing his support to Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.
Bradbury says he is backing Avakian because of controversies over Wu's erratic behavior leading up to the congressman's re-election last year.
"It's pretty clear to me we'd have a real challenge holding onto that seat if Mr. Wu winds up winning the primary because I think he really has some significant electoral problems these days," Bradbury said.
Avakian declared himself a candidate in April amid reports discussing Wu's mental health and the congressman's erratic behavior. Wu has acknowledged that his behavior led several key staffers to quit, but said Wednesday that he was "healthier than (he has) been in a few years."
Wu has been criticized for giving angry speeches and campaigning inside the secure portion of Portland International Airport. He acknowledged sending emails written in the voices of his children and pictures of himself wearing a tiger costume.
The seven-term congressman has blamed his behavior on stress and said he was treated with medication and counseling. He said he has been focused on the job and not on campaigning.
"What is most troubling about these news stories is they haven't focused on my constituents," Wu said. "They've turned ... into stories about me."
As the congressman's troubles have aired publicly, various Democrats are reportedly mulling a challenge to Wu, including state Rep. Brad Witt, state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici and Oregon Business Association President Ryan Deckert.
But as more enter, it is also possible the Democratic vote will splinter and Wu may be more likely to emerge with a win.
Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University in Wu's district, called Bradbury's shift important, but said the key was "does this open the door to other big name Democrats in the state to make the same decision?"
For years Wu has appeared to have the odds against him in races — in 2004 he withstood rape allegations — and still won handily.
In addition, high Democratic registration in the district makes it unlikely the party will lose the seat, Moore said.
Avakian has tried to freeze out potential opponents by acting like the central challenger and trying to raise more money, Moore said.
A campaign spokesman said Avakian raised $40,000 within the first week of his candidacy. Wu raised nearly $220,000 in the first quarter.
Bradbury joins a list of other Avakian endorsers, including Martha Schrader, a former state senator and the wife of one of Wu's colleagues in the U.S. House. She is married to Democratic U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, who has not publicly endorsed a candidate in the primary, said spokesman James Atkin.
Tami Abdollah can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/LATams.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.