UMN law professor looks forward to primaries despite failing to win DFL senate endorsement

Richard Painter, a longtime Republican, is running as a Democrat for the senate seat currently held by Sen. Tina Smith.

Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and former lawyer for President George W. Bush, speaks at the DFL Convention at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota on Friday, June 1, 2018. Painter is running for U.S. Senate and did not win the DFL endorsement.

Courtesy of Michael Achterling

Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and former lawyer for President George W. Bush, speaks at the DFL Convention at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota on Friday, June 1, 2018. Painter is running for U.S. Senate and did not win the DFL endorsement.

Helen Sabrowsky

Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor, failed to secure the Democratic-Farmer-Labor endorsement for his U.S. Senate bid at the party’s State Convention Friday in Rochester. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, won the endorsement.

While Painter did not win the DFL endorsement, earning just over 17 percent of the delegates, he is looking forward to the Democratic primary in August. 

“The endorsement is just the opinion of the delegates here, the important thing is the opinion of the people of Minnesota,” Painter said. “So we’re going to talk to people around the state and we’ll see what happens.”

Painter — a former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush  — filed to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held Smith in April. Painter will run as a Democrat in the November midterm elections, verging from his background as a longtime Republican. 

Painter, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, decided to run as a Democrat because of the Republican Party’s current direction.  

“The Republican Party will not have anything to do with someone who is in the moderate to liberal wing of the party,” he said. “There’s no room in the Republican Party for someone like me.”

Bill Halter, communications director for Painter’s campaign, said he hopes voters will focus on the issues and not party lines. 

Halter said Painter’s experience in law and ethics make him uniquely positioned to make legal arguments against the presidential administration.

“I can’t imagine there’s another candidate in the country who has the standing and the experience to make the legal argument as to why the Trump administration is violating the Constitution,” he said. 

Speaking to delegates before the endorsement vote, Painter criticized the presidential administration, calling it a “regime.” 

Painter, who is running without PAC funding, also criticized financial influence in politics.

“Our problems precede Donald Trump,” Painter said. “It is the corrupt influence of money in politics and financial conflicts of interests that are destroying our sense of democracy.” 

Chelsea Skog, a delegate who voted for Painter, said she supports Painter because of the honesty in his campaign. 

“I watched a couple of his videos online and I just couldn’t stop watching them,” she said. “I’ve never seen a candidate speak out on so many issues. It was really awesome.”

Smith, who won the endorsement, is competing in a special election to fill the seat left open by the resignation of former Sen. Al Franken D-Minnesota, which she currently holds. 

“Let us not forget that Donald Trump and the Republicans have a plan to turn Minnesota red. And we’ve got five months to stop them … I will see you on the campaign trail and I am honored to have your endorsement,” said Smith in her endorsement acceptance speech.