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

radio station, microphone

Christian music broadcaster revealed as buyers of Go Radio

Educational Media Foundation. operates the K-Love brand, which has a presence already in the Twin Cities.

Screen Shot 2020-12-01 at 5.04.39 PM

St. Paul police chief reportedly fires officer who shot naked, unarmed man

Chief Todd Axtell said the officer's use of force was not reasonable.

Trevor May

Report: Trevor May leaving Twins to sign with Mets

The right-hander will sign a two-year deal to head to New York

Car crash

'Grim' milestone: Minnesota's traffic deaths reach 364, tying 2019 total

“With fewer vehicles on the road during the 2020 pandemic, the loss of life on Minnesota roads is beyond disappointing."

Devin Weiland

Charges: Albert Lea man, 21, fired around 90 shots at police, residents

Weiland was arrested after a standoff that lasted more than eight hours.

Body storage warehouse

Body storage warehouse 'ready if needed for COVID-19 fatality management'

The warehouse is currently storing PPE and testing supplies.


Signs come down at Giordano's restaurant in Uptown

It appears the restaurant has closed for good.

State Capitol.

Walz eyes COVID-19 relief package totaling $300-$600 million amid budget surplus

The state forecasted a budget surplus for the remainder of the biennium.

Bar beer

Walz non-committal on extension of restaurant, gym closures

He has suggested that the ban on mixing with people outside your household could continue over Christmas.

scratch lottery ticket

State lottery: Don't give scratch-offs as gifts to minors

The Minnesota Lottery participates in an annual responsible gambling campaign focusing on underage lottery play during the holidays.

Marijuana, cannabis

Minnesota adds 2 more qualifying conditions for medical marijuana

There will be 17 conditions that qualify people to obtain medical marijuana in Minnesota.


Richard Painter takes aim at Trump as he confirms DFL Senate run

The former Bush ethics lawyer also had words for Sen. Tina Smith.

Former Bush lawyer calls on Franken to run for governor, slams 'blue dog Dems'

Richard Painter has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration.

Democratic donor considers pulling support from senators over treatment of Al Franken

Susie Tompkins Buell is unhappy with the way his exit came about.

Al Franken announces his resignation as Minnesota senator

It follows allegations of inappropriate conduct from multiple women.

President Obama gives MN Democratic candidate a boost with new ad

President Obama gave a Minnesota congressional candidate a timely boost.

What's going on with the Minnesota House and Senate?

While national lawmakers jockey for control of the U.S. House and Senate, Minnesota also has its own legislature to worry about.