A former White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush who is a prominent critic of President Donald Trump announced his run for Senate as a Democrat in Minnesota on Monday.
Speaking at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Richard Painter announced that he is seeking to unseat Sen. Tina Smith, the Democrat who was appointed last year to the seat left behind by former Sen. Al Franken, who resigned following allegations that he touched women inappropriately.
Painter is currently a law professor at the University of Minnesota, but as of late has been extremely vocal about his objections to Trump and the current state of the Republican Party. His Twitter feed is full of digs at the President and he can often be spotted on cable television criticizing the administration.
“The Republican Party insists that one must be loyal to Trump and his corrupt administration to run for federal office. My loyalties are to the United States of America. And I will make my message to the Republican Party very clear: I QUIT,” Painter’s announcement released by his campaign read. “Given these undeniable facts, I can not in good conscience continue to align myself with today’s Republican Party.”
Painter won’t need to physically change his political party affiliation since Minnesota does not have registration by parties, but he said he will not be affiliating at all with the Republican Party.
The former White House ethics lawyers insists he won’t attack Smith and will not run attack ads against her ahead of the primary in August.
“A primary in August is not going to harm the Democratic Party. It’s going to make the Democratic Farmer Labor party a lot stronger,” Painter said Monday during his announcement. “We don’t need to waste money on a bunch of foolish attack ads that are divisive. That’s how politics divides.”
“We’re going to go into this unified in November,” Painter continued, reiterating his desire not to attack his Democratic opponent.
Some of the key issues Painter is making part of his platform include campaign finance reform. He said he has long been a proponent of eliminating corporate money from politics. He continuously said he will not accept any PAC money during this race.
“I do not want support from super PACs. I do not want any of these super PACs in this state,” Painter said. “These decisions about who should be our United States senator should be made by Minnesotans alone, not by the big money organizations. We’ve had enough of that.”
In addition, with Minnesota being a big mining state, Painter stressed his focus on protecting the environment. He said he rejects outside money coming in to open and control mines that don’t consider the environmental impact.
“We are not going to allow foreign billionaires to come into this state and mine our natural resources, destroy our environment on a hit-and-run and get out,” Painter said.
Smith and Painter will face off in an August primary. Smith will be aiming to win the votes of Minnesotans for the first time in this seat but has plenty of name recognition due to her roles as a senator and lieutenant governor. Painter has never run for office before.