Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBuilding back better by investing in workers and communities Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district 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 ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBill Clinton shares video update after release from hospital Biden, Democrats risk everything unless they follow the Clinton pivot (they won't) Giuliani picks Abe Lincoln filter for attack against McAuliffe 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 DurbinThe Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Democrats struggle to sell Biden plan amid feuding 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 GillibrandUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program MORE (D-N.Y.) this cycle, though the administration and Democrats who were considering challenging Gillibrand say no job offers were made.