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Ex-Bush aide, TV commentator Painter in Senate race

Richard Painter, professor and cable news commentator, announces on Monday, April 30, 2018, that he is running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat. He faces U.S. Sen. Tina Smith in the Aug. 14 primary election. Don Davis / Forum News Service1 / 2
Richard Painter, professor and cable news commentator, announces on Monday, April 30, 2018, that he is running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat. He faces U.S. Sen. Tina Smith in the Aug. 14 primary election. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL—A Minnesotan who national television cable news viewers know as a strong President Donald Trump critic is running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate.

Richard Painter announced Monday, April 30, that he will run in the Aug. 14 Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary election against Sen. Tina Smith. Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Smith when Al Franken resigned; she says she is running for election this year for the last two years of Franken's term.

In his announcement, Painter, 56, spent more time talking about Trump, whom he has blasted on cable news programs. He was an ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush and is a University of Minnesota law professor.

On Monday, Painter said it was time to break with the Republican Party, which he long has called home, because it requires its federal candidates to back Trump.

"This is not the America I want to live in," Painter said, adding that if Democrats take control in Congress that he expects impeachment proceedings to begin.

"I don't hate Donald Trump..." Painter said. "I do hate what he is doing to our country."

He said that he has not talked to DFL officials. He said he would welcome an endorsement at the party's state convention in Rochester in early June, but he will not show up unless he receives an invitation.

While the race is expected to be one of the most expensive in the country as Republicans try to take Senate control away from Democrats, Painter said he does not know how much a campaign will cost.

"I don't care about the money, it is the message," Painter said.

The Philadelphia native said he will not take donations from political action committees and Russians.

Smith's campaign did not immediately comment on Painter.

The new candidate brought up few issues on his own, but did criticize northern Minnesota mining proposals Polymet and Twin Metals. He said they are run by foreign billionaires and if the mines go ahead they will pollute water and bring in mostly temporary jobs.

He also was critical for Trump trade policy. He said China and other countries will damage Minnesota agriculture by putting tariffs on farm and other goods in response to the president's trade practices.

Michael McAdams of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Smith will be forced further to the political left by Painter's entry into the race.

"Her own party has had enough, with Trump-hating impeachment advocate Richard Painter announcing he's challenging Smith for Minnesota's Democratic Senate nomination," McAdams said.

State Sen. Karin Housley of St. Mary's Point is the lone major Republican in the race.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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