By Russell Berman and Sean J. Miller - 06/04/10 12:42 AM EDT
The White House and New York Democrats said Wednesday they didn't play 'let's make a deal' to avoid a contentious Senate primary.
New York Reps. Steve Israel, Carolyn Maloney and Carolyn McCarthy, along with former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-Tenn.), said the White House didn’t offer them positions in exchange for forgoing a run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
The administration took a considerably different approach — the carrot as opposed to the stick — with former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.). It sent former President Bill Clinton as an emissary to Sestak and used White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina to reach out to Romanoff. In both cases, the White House implied positions in the administration were available if the men dropped their primary challenges.
Gillibrand’s potential primary opponents, however, were unlikely to be bought off with jobs. Ford works in television, on Wall Street and with several issue campaigns, and would be unlikely to accept an administration job in exchange for his dropping a Senate bid.
A source close to Ford said he double-checked Thursday and “there was never anything [offered] from the White House or an emissary or anything at all.”
It was clear, however, that the White House opposed Ford’s bid.
Press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in January to “stay tuned” to see what behind-the-scenes efforts the administration would take to prevent Ford from challenging Gillibrand.
When the White House announces publicly they don’t want someone to run, major donors take note.
Maloney, meanwhile, is chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, a powerful position in Congress. She too would be unlikely to accept a job in exchange for a political favor, although none was offered, according to her spokeswoman.
“There wasn’t any sort of deal at all,” said Alix Anfang, a spokeswoman for Maloney’s House campaign. “Nothing of the sort happened.”
Israel would have been able to raise money to compete with Gillibrand but he too opted not to run. “In my discussions with the White House, there was never any discussion, hint, intimation or suggestion of any job or position,” Israel told The Hill in a statement.
But New York's City Hall News reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made it very clear to Israel the administration didn't want him to run and suggested President Barack Obama would campaign for Gillibrand in the black neighborhoods of New York City if Israel went ahead with his bid. Emanuel disputed that part of the article.
A spokeswoman for McCarthy’s office said the congresswoman was “not offered anything” to drop her bid to unseat Gillibrand.
A former New York State Democratic Party official told The Hill on background that he didn't hear about any possible job offers from the White House for prospective candidates.
But there was intense pressure not to run, and it was led by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who implied that money and support would not be there, the former official said. The bottom line was that they didn’t want to get on Schumer’s “bad side.”
Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon was emphatic that the senator did not make or relay any suggestion, indication, hint, or offers of a job in his discussions with the New York representatives considering a run against Gillibrand. "Never. Absolutely did not happen,” Fallon said.
Sam Youngman contributed to this article.