A former White House ethics lawyer turned University of Minnesota professor has is considering a run for Al Franken's former Senate seat.
Richard Painter told media at the State Capitol he will create an "exploratory committee" to look into the possibility of running to challenge Democrat Sen. Tina Smith, who was appointed to the seat following Franken's resignation.
He hasn't decided yet who he'll run for, saying the committee will explore options including entering primary races for the Republican and Democratic parties in Minnesota, as well as running as an independent.
He is considering entering politics on an anti-corruption message, saying he thinks U.S. politics particularly at the federal level has been corrupted by money.
"It's been corrupted by PACs, Super PACs and dark money organizations. If I do to pursue a race for this seat I will make sure I don't have Super PAC or dark money to support my campaign," he said.
Painter has long links to the Republican Party but says the party has changed, saying in recent years he has voted Democrat on occasion when he wasn't happy with the options presented to him by the GOP.
Who is Richard Painter?
Painter, the ethics lawyer at the White House under former President George W. Bush between 2005-07, is now professor of corporate law at the U of M.
He has amassed a major Twitter following of 401,000 and, despite previously serving a Republican president, has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, both on Twitter and as a talking head on major TV networks.
We wrote about him last month when he called for Franken to run for governor in Minnesota, saying he was a victim of "blue dog" Democrats who pushed for his resignation following allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.
He has also previously been complimentary of Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, both for eschewing donations from the NRA and big tobacco as well as sticking to her principles while in office.
The 56 year old is a former Harvard and Yale Law graduate, taking jobs in corporate law and later education before joining the White House.
He joined the U of M in 2007 when his wife became professor of music history there, according to this City Pages, which notes that he's a lifelong "moderate Republican" who supported Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich in the 2016 primaries, and Hillary Clinton in the general election.
The race is heating up
His possible entrance to the race would add intrigue to what is expected to be a intense election season in Minnesota, with both Senate seats up for grabs.
His moderate point of view and legal experience could win him supporters not just from right-of-center Republicans and swing voters, but also moderate Democrats who judging by social media responses see him as a conservative voice of reason.
Painter's criticism of Trump could make the Democratic primaries particularly now it's being highlighted by Politico that Sen. Smith, while being critical of White House policy, has steered clear of denouncing the president since taking office.
And if he went for the Republican ticket he could face state Sen. Karin Housley, who has apparently blocked Painter on Twitter.