Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Inside the opulent Mansfield room on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) received a warm ovation Tuesday from the 58 Democratic senators who could be his new colleagues in November if he wins the Pennsylvania Senate race.
But walking into the formal senators-only lunch, Sestak was dogged by reporters with questions about his past, specifically about allegations that Sestak made during his heated primary battle against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) that the White House had offered him a job in the administration to drop his bid to unseat Specter.
Controversy surrounding the matter has intensified since Sestak beat Specter in the primary election last week.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fended off a dozen questions about Sestak's allegations during a press briefing last week, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has called for an independent counsel to investigate the allegations, which Issa said would amount to a felony. (The Department of Justice declined to investigate the matter Monday.)
Sestak defended himself Tuesday with iron-clad talking points and a warm smile for the CNN producer who hounded him to give more details about an event that Sestak himself acknowledged in an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier in March.
When asked Tuesday which job in the administration he was offered and by whom, Sestak said, "I have nothing else to say on the matter."
Does he think the issue will just go away?
"What we have to make go away is how Washington, D.C., is not focused on families in Pennsylvania. That's what I'm running for."
"Why won't you answer?" the producer asked.
"Politics is not what I'm interested in. I'm interested in one thing -- how do we change Washington? I was asked a question about something that happened seven or eight months earlier," Sestak said, concluding, "I answered it and moved on to what really needs to be addressed here, which is that Washington, D.C., isn't accountable."
Heading into the lunch, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chair of Senate Democrats' campaign efforts, said he knew none of the details about what might have happened between Sestak and the White House, but he thought he had an idea.
"My sense of this is that there was probably an inquiry, 'What kind of public service do you want to perform?'" Menendez hypothesized. "And at the end of the day, he said I want to be a senator from Pennsylvania."
Tagged: 2010 Senate Elections
, 2010 Senate Races
, Arlen Specter
, Joe Sestak
, pa senate races
, pennsylvania senate races
, Robert Gibbs
, Robert Menendez