Tina Smith defeats former Bush ethics lawyer in Minnesota Dem primary

Tina Smith defeats former Bush ethics lawyer in Minnesota Dem primary
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Democrats scramble for climate alternatives MORE (D-Minn.) fended off a primary challenge from Richard Painter on Tuesday, setting her up for a special election bid to defend the Senate seat she has held since January.

With 17 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press called the race for Smith, who carried 76 percent of the vote at the time.

Painter, a former Republican who served as President George W. Bush’s ethics counsel, launched a longshot challenge to Smith earlier this year. He told The Hill in May that he believed his positions were more in line with Democratic voters.

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 But Smith, a longtime player in Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, largely ignored the challenge from Painter.

She consistently outraised him throughout the primary and reported having more than $1.5 million in cash on hand in her most recent filing, compared to the less than $83,000 reported by Painter. 

Smith, the former lieutenant governor of Minnesota, was tapped to replace former Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame MORE (D-Minn.) late last year, after he resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Smith will face off against Republican state Sen. Karin Housley in the November special election to fill the remainder of Franken's term expiring in early January 2021. The race has been rated by The Cook Political Report as “likely Democrat.”

Housley was the GOP’s top fundraiser in the primary to replace Smith, ending July with nearly $1 million cash on hand, and had the backing of the state Republican Party in the primary.

That appointment sets up an unusual scenario that puts both of Minnesota’s senators on the ballot in November.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan MORE (D-Minn.), who is running for a third-term in office, also won her primary on Tuesday, though she faced no serious challengers.

She’s slated to face Minnesota Republican state Rep. Jim Newberger in November. Klobuchar is far ahead of Newberger in the fundraising game. In her most recent federal filing, she reported having more than $6 million in cash on hand, while Newberger has spent more money than he has taken in, according to his latest filing.

Klobuchar is by and large the favorite to win her reelection bid in November, with Cook rating her seat as “solid Democrat.”

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE won narrowly in Minnesota in 2016, edging out President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE by less than two points. The state has chosen Democrats for the presidency in each election since 1976.