Skip to main content

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.

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

St. Louis County

St. Louis County set to declare state of emergency ahead of peak flood levels

Volunteers are urgently needed for sandbagging efforts in a small community near Voyageurs National Park.

Screen Shot 2022-05-16 at 5.03.30 PM

Brothers Bar & Grill closes in downtown Minneapolis

The Midwest chain closed its St. Cloud location in 2018.

Ken Jeong

Licensed physician Ken Jeong to do standup in MN this September

The licensed physician will take the stage at Treasure Island Resort and Casino on Sept. 30.

Osseo Police Department

Osseo PD says officer did not pursue suspect who caused fatal crash

The crash happened in Brooklyn Park early Sunday morning.

221 Main Street. E. Albert Lea

Suspect arrested after 3 family members stabbed in Albert Lea

The three victims are related, according to police.


Evidence that omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5 are in Minnesota

The European CDC has warned of a possible significant summer surge fueled by the omicron subvariants.

driving unsplash - crop

Hastings man charged for driving drunk with 2-year-old in vehicle

Matthew Quade's BAC was almost five times over the legal limit when police pulled him over last week.

police lights

Arrest made after person shot at Hopkins apartment building

Police say this was an isolated incident and that the victim and suspect knew each other.


BA.2.12.1 omicron subvariant quickly becoming dominant in MN

Experts say the subvariant is more transmissible but there is not evidence to suggest it causes more severe disease.


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.