Feb 15, 2022 - Politics

Richard Painter eyes independent run for Minnesota attorney general

Richard Painter speaks during a 2018 event. Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Richard Painter is keeping his options open when it comes to Minnesota's November elections.

What's new: The one-time counsel to former President George W. Bush confirmed to Axios Monday that he's exploring a run for attorney general, while still considering an independent bid for governor.

  • The University of Minnesota law professor hasn't yet decided whether he'd seek a major party nomination or run as an independent if he went up against DFL incumbent Keith Ellison.

Why it matters: A serious independent candidate can tip the scales in a tight race. Attorney general saw the closest margin of any statewide contest in 2018.

Flashback: Painter, a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, shed his GOP affiliation to run in the DFL primary against U.S. Sen Tina Smith in 2018. He won 14% of the vote.

  • His opposition to DFL Gov. Tim Walz largely stems from differences over mining.

What he's saying: Painter said he sees "a very wide lane in the middle" for an attorney general candidate who is both tough on crime and willing to stand up to police unions on job protection, without using "defund" slogan language that hurt Democrats in 2020.

Between the lines: Painter confirmed a report that his former campaign manager has encouraged him to run under the banner of the Forward Party, a new political operation launched by former presidential and New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang.

  • He said he recently had a long conversation with Yang and feels they are "aligned" on many issues.

What to watch: Painter said he's less likely to run for governor if WCCO host Cory Hepola jumps in as an independent, since he doesn't see a path for two serious candidates outside the major parties.

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