In case you missed it, the race to fill the vacancy left by former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) will be held in November. The liberal Democrat was forced to resign after scores of women came forward with allegations of groping and other inappropriate behavior. Franken was unable to play the liberal card; the Me Too moment was still in high gear. He was forced to leave. In addition, he was becoming a distraction for Democratic attacks against Republican Roy Moore who was running in the special election in Alabama to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacancy. He faced serious allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women when they were teenagers. In the end, Franken was booted. He never apologized for his conduct. Tina Smith, the state’s lieutenant governor, replaced him, being appointed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. Now, Smith faces anti-Trump Republican Richard Painter in the primary. Yes, folks, he’s running as a Democrat because moderate Republicans are the most principled out there—said by no one. They’re not team players, so this isn’t a shocker. News of his candidacy broke at the very end of April (via WaPo):
Painter's most high-profile job was in a Republican administration. He served as the chief ethics lawyer in George W. Bush's White House. Now he's vice chairman of a nonprofit government watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is nonpartisan but whose leaders also describe it as progressive. (They've sued Trump once already.)
Despite his Republican background, it's not a coincidence that Painter has decided to run for office as a Democrat. The Trump era has opened the door for Painter to run for Senate. His candidacy is getting a big boost, if not being launched, thanks to Painter's high profile as a Trump critic on Twitter, cable TV and other news media.
Smith was fairly prominent in the state before Franken's resignation. She had been the state's lieutenant governor since 2015 before going to Washington and was high-profile enough that she was widely speculated to run for governor in the open 2018 election. She's got the backing of nearly the entire Minnesota Democratic establishment and had already scared off at least one prominent potential primary challenger, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).
Painter, by contrast, has never run for office and is arguably better known in Washington political and journalism circles than among Minnesota Democrats.
If you were to peruse my posts from the 2016 primary, yes, I was not a Trump fan. Then again, that’s the nature of a presidential election with a crowded field. Obama was term-limited. It was the perfect way to showcase the GOP’s deep bench, which it still has, though one that wasn’t entirely in tune with the cultural yearning the base was looking for, like being tough on immigration, the temerity to fight dirty against the Left, and the re-establishment of the presidency as a cheerleader and job creator for the American people. After a brutal primary, Trump came out on top. That was it. He was my guy. I’m a base voter. There isn’t enough gold in Fort Knox that would made me even consider voting for Hillary Clinton and there wasn’t enough diamonds in South Africa that would force me to go third party with Evan McMullin.
Painter, who was George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer, seems to be horrified by Trump. So much that he would abandon his party and join the Democrats to stop an agenda that will bring peace to North Korea, ended the façade of the Iran deal, placed more money in American workers’ pockets, and brought about a better job creating and investing climate. Why? He doesn’t like Trump. He’s a self-described centrist. Well, guess what, the Democrats are not centrist. They’re a hard left wing party in many regards. You know that phrase spineless moderate. Well, just take a look at his response to MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki when he asked Painter if he believed the women who have accused Franken of sexual misconduct on April 30 (via Free Beacon):
Do you believe Al Franken is guilty of unwanted advances, or do you believe this was a set-up job?" Kornacki asked.
"I have no idea. I put a lot of those tweets out when I first heard about it. I continue to wonder why Roger Stone got a heads-up on that before the Minnesota voters did," he said.
Painter said the voters were entitled to an investigation and a senator serving out his fuill term.
"Sir, with respect, there are women who have come out and put their names on the record," Kornacki said. "There's an elected official from New England who said she was on stage in a public setting with Al Franken and he tried to give her an open-mouth kiss. You say you do not know at all if any of this happened?"
"I don't know the facts. It's supposed to be an ethics investigation. We should have investigations of such conduct. That type of conduct is unacceptable for a United States senator or anyone else, but we should find out the facts, not just have a resignation," Painter said.
Kornacki said he wasn't trying to make the issue about Al Franken, but he noted the "Me Too" movement in the country was the force leading to women stepping forward and making accusations against Franken.
Painter repeated he didn't know the facts on Franken's case,
"I'm hearing you say you don't know if any of them are telling the truth," Kornacki said.
"I said I don't know the facts," Painter said again, sounding impatient.
He went on to say the law needed to be fixed so women could safely come forward and report sexual harassment and assault, calling it a "serious issue."
"I guess I'm just curious. Again, there were women who came out and they put their names on these accusations," Kornacki said. "Al Franken left before there was any kind of Senate Ethics Committee investigation, but it's not enough for you to say ‘I believe these women?'"
"I am not going to opine on the facts of the Al Franken case. That was a job of the Senate Ethics Committee," he said.
Well, Painter certainly speaks like a Democrat a la prevarication when something threatens to blow up the overall narrative i.e. Democrats being the party of women.
Painter has received the endorsement of former Minnesota Republican Gov. Arne Carlson. The primary election will be held on August 14. Say what you will about the GOP—and we have our characters—I would never abandon them because of an election result. If the moderates are too queasy to back Trump, then get the hell out. Join the Democrats. We’ll see you on the battlefield.