Tina Smith defeats former Bush ethics lawyer in Minnesota Dem primary

Greg Nash

Sen. Tina Smith (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.

{mosads} 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 Franken (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 Klobuchar (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 Clinton won narrowly in Minnesota in 2016, edging out President Trump by less than two points. The state has chosen Democrats for the presidency in each election since 1976.

Tags 2022 midterm elections Al Franken Amy Klobuchar Amy Klobuchar Donald Trump Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Richard Painter Tina Smith Tina Smith

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