In 2018 Richard Painter was a candidate contending for the Democratic nomination to run for the Senate seat held by the appointed (and since elected) Democratic incumbent (Tina Smith). He ran for office while holding an endowed chair at the University of Minnesota Law School (my law school alma mater).

Painter had identified himself as a Republican when he served in the Bush (43) White House counsel’s office and when he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in the 2016 election. Until Painter announced his candidacy for office in 2018, Painter held himself out as a Republican in connection with his many media appearances disparaging Trump on the cable channels after the 2016 presidential election.

Painter has aspirations for elective office. In 2018 he had Minnesota Senator Tina Smith’s Senate seat in mind. He ran for the DFL Senate nomination for her seat that year.

As recently as April 2018, Painter was unsure whether he would seek Smith’s seat as a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. Once he declared himself a Democratic candidate that month, I posed 10 questions to Painter upon the announcement of his candidacy. I posed the questions by email at his invitation after I asked him for an interview.

I never heard back from Painter. Was it something I asked? My question number 2 was: “You have held yourself out as a Republican during your career and at the time you endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in the fall of 2016. When did you first identify yourself as a Democrat?”

I find Painter good for comic relief. I had a hard time following Painter’s train of thought in the tweet below, for example, but Painter’s former Bush administration colleague Shannen Coffin emailed this helpful comment on it: “Free stuff. That’s what the Declaration of Independence was all about.”

Incidentally, when a conservative attorney friend of mine recently asked development staff at the law school whether they had any conservatives on the faculty — I was imploring my friend to quit supporting the law school — the staffer identified Painter. In other words, no.

The beat goes on. With the death of Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn this past February, Minnesota’s First District congressional seat is open. Painter ran for the DFL nomination in yesterday’s special primary. With all precincts reporting, I regret to report that Painter came in third, pulling only 9.1 percent of the vote.

Turnout in the highly competitive Republican primary roughly doubled that on the Democratic side, with state rep. Brad Finstad edging out state rep. Jeremy Munson by 400 votes in a crowded field. Two marijuana legalization candidates will be on the ballot in the special election to be held on August 9. Coincidentally, Painter’s fantasies about winning elective office make me wonder what he is smoking.

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