Rep. Dean Phillips is running against President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for 2024. The announcement came in a video clip released by CBS News Thursday night. Shortly after that, he released a video on his presidential campaign’s social media accounts. Phillips made his formal announcement at a speech Friday at the New Hampshire State House.
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“I am running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States because, my friends, it is time for a change, and I am ready to lead our great nation to a bright and prosperous future,” Phillips said in his speech. “I do so not in opposition to President Biden, who has my appreciation and gratitude, rather with two core convictions: That I am a Democratic candidate who can win the 2024 general election, and, it is time for the torch to be passed to a new generation of American leaders.”
This wasn’t an out-of-the-blue move. More than a year ago, Phillips – who represents Minnesota’s Third Congressional District –publicly said Biden should not seek a second term in 2024. Phillips confirmed to multiple media outlets on July 28 that he was taking meetings from people encouraging him to run, which was openly questioned by some Democrats.
“President Biden has the strongest record of legislative accomplishment since LBJ,” said Delaware Sen. Chris Coons on Meet The Press. “Dean Phillips can’t cite anything like that.”
Phillips had said in subsequent interviews that he was hoping to encourage other Democrats to challenge Biden. His effort to unseat Biden comes as multiple polls show the president with low approval ratings, and concerns about his age.
Phillips, the first Jewish congressman to represent Minnesota, is currently in his third term representing the third district, which covers much of the West Metro, including Plymouth, Wayzata, Minnetonka, Bloomington and parts of Edina and Hopkins.
Earlier this month, Phillips resigned from his role in the Democratic House leadership, where he was the co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee because the party supports Biden’s re-election bid.
“My convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of my caucus, and I felt it appropriate to step aside from elected leadership to avoid unnecessary distractions during a critical time for our country,” he said. “I celebrate Leader (Hakeem) Jeffries for his remarkable and principled leadership, and extend gratitude to my outstanding friends and colleagues for having created space and place for my perspectives. I’ll continue to abide by my convictions, place people over politics, and support our shared mission to deliver security, opportunity, and prosperity for all Americans. Onward!”
While mulling a run, Phillips picked up a potential primary opponent for his congressional seat in Ron Harris, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) executive committee member & Midwestern Caucus Chair. Phillips could still run for his current seat. Minnesota’s presidential primary election is March 5, but the state primary is Aug. 13 with a filing deadline of June 4.
The video of the Phillips campaign bus first made news on Twitter Tuesday when it was shared by Twin Cities radio host Jason DeRusha, after which White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday, “We appreciate the congressman’s almost 100% support of this president.”
The bus has already undergone a cosmetic change since Tuesday. It now has the slogan “It’s Time For Change,” replacing “Make America Affordable Again.” The latter — reminiscent of former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” — wasn’t a welcome sight to everyone on social media.
State Sen. Bonnie Westlin, a Jewish Democrat who represents Plymouth, Medicine Lake and a piece of Maple Grove, called for Phillips to resign his seat.
“@RepDeanPhillips It’s time for you to resign your seat. I could not be more disappointed in you. You will never have my support again for any elected office, including your Congressional seat. Make America Affordable Again? Pretty rich coming from a multi-millionaire.”
Before entering politics, Phillips had been the CEO of his family business, Phillips Distilling. He was the co-owner of Talenti Gelato and co-founder of Penny’s Coffee.
Phillips’ birth father, Artie Pfefer was killed in Vietnam when Phillips was 6 months old. His mother married Eddie Phillips, who adopted Dean into the Phillips family. His grandparents Jay and Rose Phillips were longtime philanthropists who helped start Mount Sinai Hospital in Minneapolis in 1951, at a time when the city was among the most antisemitic in America and Jewish physicians and other physicians of color weren’t afforded privileges at hospitals.
“Jay’s first significant contribution right after he started the Jay and Rose Phillips Foundation of Minnesota was for Mount Sinai. And it was the foundation for his philanthropy,” Phillps said in 2017. “The family always tries to help those who are disadvantaged, whether it’s because of religion, race, or abilities. Medical research has always been near and dear to our families’ hearts because in the absence of government support, someone has to fill that gap and that’s how we’ve always looked at philanthropy.”
In 2018, he became the first Democrat to win the seat since 1958, when he defeated incumbent Erik Paulsen with 55.6 percent of the vote. He took the same percentage winning re-election over Kendall Qualls in 2020, and garnered nearly 60 percent of the vote in defeating Tom Weller in 2022.
“I’m fiscally responsible, I’m socially-inclusive, and I’m independent-minded,” Phillips told TC Jewfolk in 2017 after he announced he was running for Congress. “I think that’s what voters in this district want. And what they had in [Republican Rep.] Jim Ramstad; I think he represented many of the values that I bring to the table.”
The decision to focus on New Hampshire became interesting as it was confirmed that Biden won’t be on the ballot there. CBS News reported that Biden “is obligated as a Democratic candidate for President to comply with the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2024 Democratic National Convention.” The DNC decided on South Carolina as the first primary state, but New Hampshire state statute said it has to be the first primary held. No decision has been made if delegates will be awarded for New Hampshire.