Ex-Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter expected to run for Senate as a Democrat in Minnesota

It looks like Sen. Tina Smith has a challenger.
Publish date:

Almost 2 months after announcing he intended to run for Al Franken's former Senate seat, Richard Painter appears to have picked a side.

Although a former White House ethics lawyer under the George W. Bush administration and a self-described Republican, the University of Minnesota law professor has seemingly chosen to cross the aisle and run as a Democrat.

He has announced a news conference for Monday, but an FEC filing confirms he has registered his candidacy for the DFL in one of the two U.S. Senate races in Minnesota this year.

This would mean challenging Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, who took over for Franken when he stepped down in January, in an endorsement and/or primary race for the DFL nomination.


– U of M professor, Bush ethics lawyer mulls run for Senate.

– Sign up for our daily newsletters.

When revealing in early March his intention to run for Senate, Painter hadn't decided whether he would run as a Republican, Democrat or an Independent, launching an "exploratory committee" to help make the decision.

He launched his campaign page, Painter for US Senate, on Sunday, running on an anti-corruption ticket in which he says an "open, ethical and transparent government is paramount to a free society."

Painter has been a fierce critic of Republican President Donald Trump, regularly appearing as a talking head on news networks to decry the unethical practices he observes happening in Washington D.C., as well as more generally criticizing the power of money in U.S. politics.

Other positions he takes on his website include rebuilding the middle class in Minnesota and protecting the Earth's natural resources.

While he has long links to the Republican Party, he has said the party has changed, and in recent years he has voted Democrat on occasion when he wasn't happy with the options presented to him by the GOP.

Painter lives in Mendota Heights with his wife and their three children.

Next Up