As U.S. Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) fights for his political life, a favorite topic of conversation in political circles is trying to identify whom the Democratic Party might support to challenge him in a primary next year. Some of the most often mentioned names are Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian; state Sen. Suzanne Bomamici (D-Beaverton) and former state Rep. Greg Macpherson (D-Lake Oswego).
There's no doubt recent revelations have badly damaged Wu. But so far the news has not been nearly as serious as the allegations of sexual assault that enraged many of Wu's constituents in 2004.
Just before the 2004 election The Oregonian published a compelling story that detailed allegations that Wu attempted a "date-rape" of a girlfriend while he was an undergraduate at Stanford. Wu survived that story, easily defeating Republican Goli Ameri to win re-election. In the aftermath of that election—as is happening now—talk quickly turned to whom Democrats could find to mount a primary challenge to Wu in the following election.
One name bubbled up above the rest: the Portland Development Commission's then-chairman Matt Hennessee. Hennessee possessed tremendous attributes for a potential candidate: he was handsome, charismatic, highly visible (he was a sometime escort of Condoleezza Rice) and well-connected through his work experience under former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt and at Nike. He was also a minister, who gave the invocation at the 2003 inauguration of his former boss, then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
Here's an excerpt from WW's Murmurs column from April 20, 2005:
A dozen or so insiders have been called together for a lunch May 9 to plot strategy for Portland Development Commission chairman Matt Hennessee. "Matt's thinking he might want to run for public office..." began the email...Politicos have encouraged Hennessee, the CEO of the Lake Oswego logistics firm Quiktrak, to consider challenging Congressman David Wu or County Chair Diane Linn, but his only decision so far: He won't run against City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
But before Hennessee could decide whether to challenge Wu or pick lower-hanging political fruit, The Oregonian reported in November 2005 he'd sexually abused a young female relative in the early 1990s. The story was enough to scuttle Hennessee's professional and political careers.
Today, Hennessee is the minister at Portland's Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church. Although he never got the chance to challenge Wu, he's still keeping an eye on world events as this recent Facebook post shows:
Statement by J.W. Matt Hennessee, Senior Pastor, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon; a Doctor of Missiology Student at Western Seminary As a faith leader I reach out to all faith leaders of all nations, religions, and denominations and ask that we begin a personal and corporate prayer vigil immediately and ask Godâs strength and miraculous power to bring calm to Egypt and stability to the Region.One can understand the movement of the people of Egypt who feel disillusioned by their government when their basic life needs are not met. As I understand it there is terrible unemployment, horrific stories about hunger, sanitary conditions, and basic health care. Weâve learned from the media the majority of people in Egypt live on less than two US dollars a day.It is important to understand the concerns of President Hosni Mubarak. He has been in power since October 1981 and has weathered many storms. When he rose to power after the untimely assassination of then-President Anwar Sadat his country was isolated from the rest of the Arab world due to Egyptâs signing of the Camp David Accords and Peace Treaty with Israel. The world owes a great deal of gratitude to President Mubarak for his steady hand of leadership as he steered his great country to calmer waters.Over the last thirty years President Mubarak and his Cabinet have worked very hard to extend Egyptâs peaceful hand to each US President, each Israeli President, Prime Minister, and Knesset Member, and his fellow members of the Arab world. The world has been blessed with a stable, strong, and reliable Egypt.However, like many things time, distance, standard operating procedures and political decisions can often steer away from the reality of how they affect the average person on the street. The people in Egypt have spokenâthey are resolute in desiring change and they want it now.Our prayer is a prayer for both President Mubarak and his Cabinet and the people of Egypt. Egyptians are people of dignity and self-respect. As a person of faith I beg the demonstrators to stand down and show the world the courage and the dignity you have as a people, now that President Mubarak has spoken. A rapid overthrow of government is not in the best interest of Egypt, the Region, nor the world. Thoughtful and open reforms, election, transitions, and transfer of power are in the best interest of the entire world. Our prayer is that the period of reform and transition, which begins now, will also be a time of healing and re-building so the country can positively emerge from this historic moment. It is my deep desire that each of you will work hard to sustain the dignity and the self-respect of the Egyptian people and show the world how courageous you can be. Your prayers, hopes, and dreams, have been heard around the world. You, my friends, are the brightest hope we have for a return to order, calm, and peace. May the healing process begin and may the results of the reform and transition be a model for the world.May God bless each of you and may you have peace. Our hearts and hands are with you.