Sestak: White House Offered Me Job To Get Me Out Of Senate Race

February 19, 2010 4:32 a.m.

Did the White House offer Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) a top administration job in a bid to get him out of the U.S. Senate race? That’s what Sestak claimed in a TV interview yesterday — but the White House denies it.

Yesterday, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sestak conducted a taping of Larry Kane: Voice of Reason, a cable news show. When Kane put the question to him directly, Sestak answered “yes,” but declined to elaborate.Kane asked whether the job was Secretary of the Navy, to which Sestak, a retired Navy Admiral, replied: “No comment.” The current Navy Secretary is Ray Mabus, a Democrat and former Mississippi governor who campaigned extensively for Barack Obama in 2008.

Asked by Kane whether the job was “high-ranking,” Sestak said that it was, but added he would “never leave” the Senate race through such a deal.

After the taping, Sestak told the Inquirer that the offer came in July, not long before he formally announced his candidacy for the Senate seat. He declined to go further.

The White House “strongly denied” to the Inquirer that an offer had been made to Sestak. And a senior Pennsylvania Democrat told the paper that Sestak’s comments provoked anger at the White House yesterday. We have our request for comment in to the White House.

The White House has strongly backed Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak’s rival for the Democratic nomination, since Specter switched parties last May. President Obama has raised money for Specter. Democrats worry that a divisive primary campaign could threaten the party’s chances of holding onto the seat this fall.

A spokeswoman for Pat Toomey, the likely GOP candidate for the seat, told the Inquirer: “It’s just like Arlen Specter to get an insider Washington deal to try to save his political career.”

Late Update: A Sestak spokesman told us that despite the White House’s denial, “Congressman Sestak stands by his statement.”

Late Late Update: Sestak also confirmed the claim in an interview this morning on Fox News:

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