Romanoff: White House made offers but didn’t push him to exit race

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff said Wednesday night that after the media reported his plans to run for Senate last spring, White House officials informed him of their intent to support his opponent, incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, for the seat and suggested Romanoff might be interested in one of three possible though “not guaranteed” jobs.

Andrew Romanoff stumps outside the Colorado College debate April 23, 2010 (Boven)

The White House released a statement this morning agreeing with Romanoff that no concrete job offer was proffered. Romanoff did, however, apply for work with the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to the Washington Post.

“Andrew Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the Presidential transition. He filed this application through the Transition on-line process. After the new administration took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

“Jim Messina called and e-mailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the US Senate,” Gibbs said. “Months earlier, the President had endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.

“But Romanoff said that he was committed to the Senate race and no longer interested in working for the Administration, and that ended the discussion. As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.”

The Romanoff statement came as a release after weeks of speculation on the dealmaking around the Colorado race stemming from news from Pennsylvania that the White House similarly negotiated with Joe Sestak in his race against incumbent Arlen Specter. Romanoff had never spoken directly on the record about any talks with the White House and had chosen not to comment during the recent media storm.

“I have received a large number of press inquiries concerning the role the White House is reported to have played in my decision to run for the U.S. Senate.  I have declined comment because I did not want – and do not want – to politicize this matter,” Romanoff stated in the release.

The question of a job offer had grown to a fervor on talk radio in particular since Sestak told the press he had been offered an unpaid job on the president’s advisory board by former President Bill Clinton in exchange for pulling out of the race against recent Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter. Specter ultimately lost the Pennsylvania primary nomination to Sestak.    

Romanoff  said that he was contacted by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, whom he informed he intended to run despite White House support for Bennet. Messina “also suggested three positions available…if [he] were not pursuing the Senate race.” 

Romanoff said he was never promised a job in exchange for dropping out of the race but did receive job descriptions in an email at which point he informed Messina that he “would not change course.”   

Romanoff appeared on AM760 this morning with David Sirota, and repeated much of the statement. “Mr. Messina informed me that the White House would be supporting Mr. Bennet. He suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not to run…the White House confirms that account.”

Romanoff also emphasized in the interview that the release was not out of antipathy towards the president. “I support the president; I campaigned with the president,” he said. “This statement; this discussion is no part of our campaign message. The reason I resisted reporting was that I did not want to politicize this issue. It does not have much bearing on questions people ask us.”

Romanoff could not run for another term as Colorado House Speaker in 2008, and sought the nomination for the Senate vacancy left by Ken Salazar’s appointment to be Secretary of the Interior. However, Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Michael Bennet, former superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

Later today, the White House said it will be releasing Romanoff’s job application.

Full Romanoff statement below:

Today, U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff issued the following statement:
 
I have received a large number of press inquiries concerning the role the White House is reported to have played in my decision to run for the U.S. Senate.  I have declined comment because I did not want – and do not want – to politicize this matter.  
 
A great deal of misinformation has filled the void in the meantime.  That does not serve the public interest or any useful purpose.  
 
Here are the facts:
 
In September 2009, shortly after the news media first reported my plans to run for the Senate, I received a call from Jim Messina, the President’s deputy chief of staff.  Mr. Messina informed me that the White House would support Sen. Bennet.  I informed Mr. Messina that I had made my decision to run.
 
Mr. Messina also suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race.  He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions.  At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina’s assistance in obtaining one.
 
Later that day, I received an email from Mr. Messina containing descriptions of three positions (email attached).  I left him a voicemail informing him that I would not change course.
 
I have not spoken with Mr. Messina, nor have I discussed this matter with anyone else in the White House, since then.


Additional reporting by Luke Johnson.

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