- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Friday he was unaware his chief of staff made a potential job offer to the daughter of a fellow Democratic state senator in an attempt to keep him from resigning and shifting the balance of power in the General Assembly to Republicans.

McAuliffe said in a brief interview with The Associated Press that his chief of staff Paul Reagan acted alone in making a possible job offer to the daughter of former Democratic state Sen. Phil Puckett in order to keep him in office.

McAuliffe said he “did not know anything about it.”

Reagan’s possible job offer was first reported by The Washington Post, which obtained a transcript of a voicemail Reagan left for Puckett prior to his resignation.

“We have a couple of big agencies here that we still need agency heads. We could potentially, potentially, subject to approval of the governor and so forth, you know, the department of mines, minerals and energy could be available,” Reagan said in the voicemail. “So we would be very eager to accommodate her, if, if that would be helpful in keeping you in the senate. We, we would basically do anything.”

Puckett resigned in June, a move that gave Republicans control of the Senate and hurt McAuliffe’s chances of expanding Medicaid, his top legislative priority.

After his resignation, Puckett said he was resigning in part so that his daughter could be approved as a state judge. Republicans in the Senate had blocked his daughter’s appointment to serve as a juvenile and domestic relations judge in southwest Virginia earlier this year because of a policy of not appointing lawmakers’ immediate relatives to judgeships.

Puckett’s resignation gave Republicans control of the Senate and hurt McAuliffe’s chances of expanding Medicaid, his top legislative priority.

Puckett was in line for a potential high-level job at the GOP-controlled commission at the time of his resignation, but later withdrew his name for consideration following an uproar over his resignation. The FBI has been investigating the potential tobacco commission job offer. Both Puckett and commission chairman, Republican Del. Terry Kilgore, have denied any wrongdoing.

Several Democrats, including McAuliffe, have been highly critical of Puckett’s decision to resign.

Reagan issued a statement Friday saying he regretted his actions, which he attributed to being “overzealous” in “the fight to expand health care to uninsured Virginians.”

McAuliffe said he found out Thursday about Reagan’s voicemail. He said he’s told staff that Reagan’s behavior was unacceptable, but the governor said he has no plans to fire Reagan.

“It’s a good lesson. People make mistakes,” McAuliffe said. “We’re moving on.”

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