Richard Painter is "out" of the Republican Party, and will challenge Sen. Tina Smith for the Democratic nomination in this year's special election for U.S. Senate.
The University of Minnesota law professor confirmed on Monday what BMTN reported on Sunday, that he has decided to run for the DFL despite being a longtime Republican.
"We need to stand firm against what President Trump is threatening to do to this country," he said. "And the only alternative this fall is going to be to vote for Democrats."
"I’m out of the Republican Party," he added. "I’m fed up."
A former ethics lawyer for the White House under President George W. Bush, Painter has built a large following on social media in part thanks to his outspoken views on President Donald Trump, who he says is unfit for office and is leading an authoritarian regime.
And it was Trump – not Smith – who was the main target of his press conference on Monday, in which he revealed why he decided to cross the aisle and run as a Democrat.
"The problem in the Republican Party is that they have made it very clear that nobody is welcome to be a candidate for a national office who does not support Donald Trump," he said.
He said if he did decide to run as a Republican in the Minnesota primaries against any Trump supporter, the White House would ensure "millions of dollars are spent in Washington to take me out."
No attack ads, but criticizes Smith over Trump stance
Sen. Smith was appointed to the seat in January on an interim basis following the resignation of Al Franken, and is running to serve out the rest of Franken's term in November.
She now faces a primary challenge in the form of Painter, a prominent political commentator who is regularly featured on major TV networks and resides in Mendota Heights with his wife and children.
Painter has promised not to run attack ads against Smith, but did criticize her for not publicly standing up to the president.
"We are not going to have people representing this state in the House or Senate who are unwilling to stand up to President Trump," he said.
Smith has in the past attracted attention for an apparent reluctance to publicly admonish Trump, telling Politico she disagrees with him on almost everything, but didn't want to go to Washington just to "throw bombs and fight."
She also recognizes that he represents concerns harbored by some of her Minnesota constituents.
The only Republican contender to have announced their intention to oppose Smith so far is state Sen. Karin Housley.
In a statement, she criticized Painter for repeatedly calling for Trump's impeachment, describing it as "an extreme notion deeply unpopular with many in our state."