By Sean J. Miller - 05/26/10 11:04 PM EDT
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said Wednesday he didn’t know if the White House tried to push Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) out of the state’s Senate primary with a job offer.
But he thinks he knows how it could have happened, because he once made a similar move.
Rendell said he called Hoeffel, a former Pennsylvania Democratic congressman, into his office and showed him polling that Bob Casey, Jr., who eventually won the Senate seat from Rick Santorum (R), was a better general-election candidate. He also said that he told Hoeffel he didn’t want a divided primary that would drain the Democrats’ resources before facing the well-funded Santorum.
Rendell said he told Hoeffel that if he did withdraw from challenging Casey, he should come see the governor to discuss what’s next for him but did not offer him a specific position in his administration.
“ ‘I know you have a desire to stay in government. You are like me. You are a government junkie,’ ” Rendell said he told Hoeffel. The governor did end up appointing Hoeffel as deputy secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development.
“He did withdraw. He did come to see me. I put him in charge of our foreign trade — it’s called World Trade PA. He did a great job,” Rendell said.
Rendell said he thinks similar discussions went on between Sestak and the White House.
“I guarantee you that the White House did not say, ‘Withdraw and we’ll make you Secretary of Navy,’ ” Rendell said. He added that the White House and Sestak should address the issue quickly, though, in order to resolve it.
“The voters don’t care about it. This is a Beltway issue. We can get this behind them and start concentrating on the real issues,” Rendell said. “If you let it linger, it grows.”
Meanwhile, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday requested that the administration appoint a special prosecutor to probe allegations it offered Sestak a job.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the members say the alleged offer could have violated federal laws that prohibit the “promise of employment or other benefit for political activity.”
Republicans have escalated pressure on the White House and Sestak to reveal what, if anything, was offered to Sestak to give Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) — whom President Barack Obama endorsed — a clear path for reelection.
Republican senators who signed the letter are: ranking member Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Tom Coburn (Okla.)
Several months ago, Sestak claimed he received an offer from the White House. At the time, Sestak was trailing the Republican-turned-Democratic senator, but eventually beat him in the primary last week.
It’s not clear how the White House will respond to the letter; officials have remained mum on the subject in recent days despite taking repeated questions from the press about the topic.
Several high-profile Democrats have also called on the White House and Sestak to clear the air, including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a close ally of Obama.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has led the charge in calling for a probe, has called the offer an “impeachable offense” if proven true.
— Kevin Bogardus, Russell Berman and Jordan Fabian
Former DNC chairman says the party should prepare for big losses in election
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said Wednesday that Democrats on Capitol Hill should expect big losses in the 2010 midterm elections.
Rendell told The Hill the best-case scenario was for the party to hold 54 to 55 Senate seats while only losing 20 to 25 House seats. That would still keep Democrats in the majority in both chambers.
“We are going to lose and people say it is shocking that the Obama administration is in such tatters. Baloney!” Rendell said.
The former Democratic National Committee chairman said the tough economy would be to blame for party losses this November. He said President Ronald Reagan also lost big numbers of House seats during his first term midterm election because people were hurting from the economy then too and that President Barack Obama has a much bigger economic challenge on his hands than Reagan did.
“You have the worst recession since the Depression. When people lose their jobs, lose their 401(k)s, lose their homes, they are going to be angry and their anger is going to be directed at people in office,” Rendell said.
The Pennsylvania governor, who is leaving office after this election, said his political advice to candidates would be not to run away from their incumbent positions or the president.
Instead, they should campaign on what they have achieved in office. If he had voted for the healthcare reform bill, the governor said, he would give example after example of how it would improve people’s lives now, such as children not being denied healthcare coverage for pre-existing conditions as of Sept. 1 this year.
“If you’re an incumbent, you can’t hide. You can’t run away. Run on what you have done, run on what you have done,” Rendell said.
— K.B. and R.B.
Rand Paul shakes up campaign in wake of controversy
Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul (R) replaced his campaign manager with a veteran staffer from his father’s 2008 presidential run, the Ballot Box has confirmed.
David Adams, the former manager, will now be campaign chairman with Jesse Benton coming in as manager. Benton was Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) communications director during his 2008 presidential run.
Adams denied the shake-up was a result of the media firestorm that resulted from Rand Paul’s comments about civil rights.
“This is totally unrelated to that,” he told the Ballot Box. Adams said the move had been “in the works” since before the primary vote.
Still, he admitted that word leaked about the changes before the campaign was prepared to make a public announcement. The change was first reported by The Washington Post.
Adams said he was satisfied with his new role. “I’m very pleased with the changes. It will make my life easier,” he said.
The Paul campaign is expecting to announce new hires in the coming days, he added.
Miller is a campaign reporter for The Hill. He can be found on The Hill’s Ballot Box, located at thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box.