[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/16/art.bennet.0316.gi.jpg caption="The White House is backing Sen. Bennett in the Colorado Democratic primary."]Washington (CNN) - A Colorado Senate candidate, who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary, said Wednesday that a senior White House aide suggested last year that three administration jobs might be open to him if he abandoned plans to run against Bennet. But the candidate, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, also noted that he was never offered a position by the White House.
"In September 2009, shortly after the news media first reported my plans to run for the Senate, I received a call from Jim Messina, the president's deputy chief of staff. Mr. Messina informed me that the White House would support Sen. Bennet. I informed Mr. Messina that I had made my decision to run," Romanoff said in a statement released early Wednesday evening. "Mr. Messina also suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race. He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions. At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina's assistance in obtaining one."
Romanoff said later that day he received an email from Messina with descriptions of three positions. Romanoff includes an attachment of what he says is the email from Messina, which is dated Friday, September 11, 2009. The three positions listed in the email are Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Caribbean, USAID, Director of the Office of Democracy and Governance, USAID, and Director of the US Trade and Development Agency, USTDA.
(Read the e-mail here)
Romanoff said he left Messina a voicemail informing him "that I would not change course," and added "I have not spoken with Mr. Messina, nor have I discussed this matter with anyone else in the White House, since then."
Five days later, Romanoff formally launched his Senate bid.
The White House said in a statement Thursday that Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the presidential transition, applying online. After Obama took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel, the statement said.
"Messina called and e-mailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID or if, as had been reported, he was running for the U.S. Senate," said the statement from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
"Months earlier, the president had endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters."
Romanoff told Messina he was committed to running for the Senate and was no longer interested in working for the Obama administration, "and that ended the discussion," the White House said. "As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job."
The Denver Post first reported the story last September. At the time, the newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that Messina contacted Romanoff. In his statement Wednesday, Romanoff said he has declined comment until now "because I did not want - and do not want - to politicize this matter."
Bennet was plucked out of political obscurity early last year when Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter named him to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who stepped down to serve as Interior Secretary in the Obama Administration.
To reach this year's general election, Bennet first needs to defeat Romanoff in Colorado's August 10 Democratic primary. Bennet has the backing of the White House and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He has also out paced Romanoff when it comes to fundraising, thanks in part to an appearance by President Obama at a Bennet fundraiser in Colorado in February.
But Romanoff topped Bennett at party precinct caucuses earlier this year, which gave him a bit of a boost.
The developments come on the same day that House Republicans demanded the White House turn over internal documents related to its failed effort last year to try and persuade Rep. Joe Sestak to forgo a primary challenge to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, in exchange for a government job.
The relevant laws in question include 18 U.S.C. § 600 (Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity), 18 U.S.C. § 595 (Interference by administrative employees of Federal, State, or Territorial Governments) and the Hatch Act (An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities)
Sestak ended up defeating Specter in Pennsylvania's May 18 primary.
Last Friday, White House Counsel Bob Bauer released a memorandum revealing that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had enlisted the help of former President Bill Clinton to offer to Sestak an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board. But Bauer concluded there was no wrong doing by the White House, saying that "allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law."
In an editorial Wednesday, the Denver Post urged the White House to "clear the air on the Romanoff deal."
- CNN's Ed Henry and Dana Bash contributed to this report.