Heading into the midterm elections later this year, Democrats are widely expected to make significant pickups in Congress. They’re set to ride on the strength of an opposition to President Trump’s party that has already been exemplified through such means as the respective victories of Democrats Conor Lamb and Doug Jones in special elections held since Trump’s inauguration.
In that context, both of Minnesota’s U.S. Senators will be up for re-election later this year, including Tina Smith, who is the former lieutenant governor of the state and was tapped to fill the seat after Al Franken resigned in the face of sexual misconduct allegations.
Minnesota’s Star Tribune is now reporting this weekend that Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, is planning to challenge Smith as a Democrat. Painter has already filed the necessary paperwork to run and he’s expected to formally announce his candidacy at a press conference on Monday.
Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush White House from 2005 to 2007, first moved to Minnesota with his family at the end of his time in that position. His background is obviously as a Republican, but he has emerged as an ardent critic of the Trump administration in the time that it’s been in power.
It was the organization he serves as vice chairman of — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — that brought a lawsuit against the president for allegedly violating the clause of the Constitution that prohibits presidents from accepting foreign gifts without the consent of Congress.
That lawsuit was dismissed late last year on the grounds that the organization didn’t actually have the standing to bring the challenge. In the wake of its demise, the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., are bringing their own lawsuit alleging a violation of the “emoluments clause” against the president.
Painter will be launching his bid to take over Al Franken’s old Senate seat alongside Democrat Amy Klobuchar launching her own bid to hold onto her Senate seat, which is the other one possessed by the state of Minnesota.
As of this weekend, the only Republican contender for the seat formerly held by Franken is Karin Housley, who was elected to the state legislature in 2012 and currently serves as a state senator.
Every seat in the U.S. House is, of course, facing an election later this year, as it about one-third of the Senate. Democrats need to take just two seats in the Senate to become the majority party and they need to take a couple of dozen in the House. A number of Republicans, like House Speaker Paul Ryan himself, have already decided to get out of the way and announced they do not intend to seek re-election.
If Democrats are able to take back control of even just one house of Congress, it would put a serious damper on the president’s ability to carry out the most incendiary parts of his agenda. No longer would he have a mostly clear shot to the passage of major legislation.
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