As the White House takes heat for offering a job to Rep. Joe Sestak as a way to entice him away from the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate Democratic primary, political watchers in Colorado are unearthing rumors from the fall that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff was similarly enticed not to run against Sen. Michael Bennet.
Any such deal with Romanoff has been officially denied by the White House but the Denver Post last September quoted “several sources” suggesting the negotiations took place:
Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.
Romanoff turned down the overture, which included mention of a job at USAID, the foreign aid agency, sources said.
Then, the day after Romanoff formally announced his Senate bid, Obama endorsed Bennet.
Although it’s customary for the president to endorse incumbent senators — Obama endorsed Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), two sitting senators with primary challengers– in denying such a deal was offered to Romanoff, a White House spokesman left the door open for speculation. The words “Mr. Romanoff was never offered a position within the administration,” could still be consistent with what the Post’s sources reported– that the conversations may well have been implicit, an unsurprising form of tacit dealmaking.
Yet serious differences in the cases of Sestak and Romanoff remain. For one, Romanoff hadn’t yet formally announced he was running against Bennet and it was widely known that Romanoff, the term-limited former House Speaker, was looking for a new job in government, including within the administration:
A popular state House speaker, Romanoff has had a long interest in issues of global poverty and had talked to the administration about a possible job in early spring. White House officials said those discussions stopped when Romanoff began suggesting he might run for higher office in Colorado.
Bennet’s allies have suggested that Romanoff followed an erratic, even grasping path to the primary after his bid to be appointed to the seat by Gov. Bill Ritter in January failed — looking for a job in the administration, traveling to the Middle East and Africa, and applying to become head of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, a children’s advocacy organization.
Early this year, Romanoff “was recommended to the White House from Democrats in Colorado for a position in the administration,” White House spokesman Abrams said. “At that time there were some initial conversations, but no job was ever offered.”
But Democrats in Colorado say it was doubtful an administration job would have tempted Romanoff once news of his intention to run for Senate leaked in late August.
Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams said that any offer was unethical. “It’s reprehensible to have an administration, especially the one that has set itself up as the paragon of ethical virtue, to run around trying to buy off candidates to get out of these competitive primaries.”.
Romanoff’s campaign has yet to say anything about the alleged offer.