Sen. Michael BennetMichael BennetOvernight Finance: House votes to repeal arbitration rule | Yellen, Cohn on Trump's list for Fed chief | House passes Russia sanctions deal | GOP centrists push back on border wall funding Tax credits bring much needed relief Senate Dem: No clarity, 'little competence' behind travel ban MORE (D-Colo.) said Thursday he was aware the White House had urged Andrew Romanoff not to challenge him in a primary.

Bennet told The Hill he knew beforehand that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina had reached out to Romanoff in hopes of avoiding a primary challenge to the incumbent Bennet.

“Yeah, I was aware,” Bennet said. “Right.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Bennet said he didn’t remember specifically how he was made aware of the contact, but pointed to a September 2009 Denver Post article about Messina’s contact with Romanoff. An aide clarified that Bennet knew before the article’s publication of the White House contacting Romanoff.

Romanoff, a former state House speaker, attracted headlines recently by stating he was contacted by Messina last September with various job offers. Romanoff said Messina made it clear he could not guarantee the appointments, and Romanoff said he rejected the overture.

The White House has confirmed the contact but denies any jobs were offered. Media reports suggest three specific positions were mentioned: a Central-American administrative post, the directorship of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and the head position at the Office of Democracy and Governance at USAID.

Bennet and Romanoff face off Aug. 10 for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat.

The White House also contacted Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak (D) in hopes of avoiding a primary challenge to incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).

At the request of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonFormer Defense chief: I would have threatened to resign over Trump's transgender ban Ex-Cruz aide: Trump presidency 'is effectively over' OPINION | Gen. Hayden: How the Russians played the Trumps MORE called Sestak in an attempt to clear the field for Specter.

An official administration document released in late May on the communication stated that nothing inappropriate was discussed, and only uncompensated positions on advisory boards were at issue. Republicans have called for the White House to release more information about the offers to Sestak.

Specter spokeswoman Kate Kelly said Specter did not know about the White House's offers to Sestak.

Senate Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinPassing the DACA legislation will provide relief to children living in fear Dems don’t want to help GOP improve repeal bill Mnuchin: Trump administration examining online sales tax issue MORE (D-Ill.) defended the Obama administration’s outreach to the candidates, saying too much has been made of the controversy.

“It’s an old story. It applies to presidents in all administrations,” Durbin told The Hill. “I don’t find it surprising, and I certainly don’t think there’s anything unusual about it.”

The White House played a major role in clearing the primary field for Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenators to Mattis: Don't ban transgender troops GOP senator forces Dems to vote on single payer OPINION | Democrats: Time to wish Hillary Clinton good luck and goodbye MORE (D-N.Y.) this cycle, though the administration and Democrats who were considering challenging Gillibrand say no job offers were made.