President Reagan’s Job Offer To California Senator In 1981 Becomes Relevant Again

The story – it shouldn’t even be called a “scandal” – unfolding about Joe Sestak’s “job offer” from the White House is only interesting as far as it serves as further evidence of the basic political incompetence of Rahm Emanuel. But since the national news media is back to its usual ways of being the partners of the Republican Party in trying to generate scandal against Democrats, it’s worth exploring this whole “job offer” concept in a bit more detail.

Specifically, the fact that President Ronald Reagan tried to offer a job to sitting U.S. Senator S.I. Hayakawa, a Republican from California, in advance of the 1982 election.

Matt Ortega unearthed this article from 1981 about the offer made by the Reagan Administration ahead of a contested GOP primary that year:

Sen. S.I. Hayakawa on Wednesday spurned a Reagan Administration suggestion that if he drops out of the crowded Republican Senate primary race in California, President Reagan would find him a job.

“I’m not interested,” said the 75-year old Hayakawa. “I do not want to be an ambassador, and I do not want an administration post.”

Polls in California show Hayakawa trailing other candidates seeking the GOP Senate nomination in next year’s primary election.

Among Republicans seeking Hayakawa’s seat are Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr., R-Calif, Maureen Reagan, the president’s daughter, and Pete Wilson, the mayor of San Diego.

Hayakawa was elected to the Senate in 1976, beating incumbent Democrat John Tunney.

Before the election, Hayakawa became nationally known after taking a tough line against student demonstrators at San Francisco State College where he was acting president.

A fuller version of the article indicates it was Ed Rollins who made the offer to Hayakawa.

The backstory is this: Hayakawa made a name for himself in 1968 as the president of San Francisco State University who fought against a long, bitter student strike that year. He was held up as a “law and order” figure and during the 1970s espoused his own brand of conservative politics, becoming a better known figure as a result. In 1976 he ran as a Republican candidate for US Senate, taking on and beating one-term incumbent Democrat John Tunney (who had himself barely survived a primary challenge from Tom Hayden).

Senator Hayakawa was something of an oddball, and seen increasingly as out of touch with his constituents. Republicans crowded the primary field, and Governor Jerry Brown declined to run for a third term in 1982 in order to take on the vulnerable Hayakawa, leading to the Reagan Administration’s job offer.

As it turned out, Hayakawa eventually decided not to run for re-election, but didn’t get a Reagan Administration job. San Diego mayor Pete Wilson won the GOP primary and beat Jerry Brown that November to take the US Senate seat, becoming the last Republican to be elected to the US Senate from California.

Of course, as with amnesty for undocumented immigrants, this is likely another move by President Reagan that his latter-day acolytes will refuse to acknowledge in their zeal to bring down Democrats.