Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) has announced a long-shot primary challenge to President Biden in 2024.
The three-term congressman and business owner argues that Biden has an electability problem and should pass the torch to a younger fellow Democrat. Here are some things to know about Phillips and his views.
Phillips, 54, is relatively new to Congress. He was first elected in 2018, when he flipped Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses many of the suburbs in the western half of the Twin Cities metro area. Phillips is the first Democrat to claim the seat since 1958, handily winning reelection to his second and third terms in 2020 and 2022.
Phillips serves on the Small Business and Foreign Affairs committees. And in a recent signal of the pending campaign, Phillips stepped down from his House leadership role as the co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which coordinates messaging among the House Democrats. When he resigned, Phillips said his “convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of [his] caucus.”
He is credited with sponsoring the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which became law in June 2020 amid the pandemic.
Phillips, a Minnesota native, attended Brown University and the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Business. He’s part of a Gold Star family, having lost his father, Artie Pfefer, in the Vietnam War when Phillips was just six months old. His mother, DeeDee Cohen, remarried to Eddie Phillips, a businessman credited with creating the luxury vodka spirits category.
Dean Phillips was formerly the president and chief executive officer of his family’s distilling business, Phillips Distilling. The business was sold to French luxury conglomerate LVMH. He went on to help run Talenti Gelato, a gelato and sorbet producer, which was sold to Unilever, and co-founded Penny’s Coffee, a small chain of cafes in the Twin Cities.
Phillips’s assets last year were valued between $20.5 million to $70 million, according to his annual financial disclosure report submitted to Congress. His fortune could be useful for him, as most Democratic donors are tied to Biden.
While Phillips’s political views are broadly aligned with those of Biden, Phillips has for months called on Biden to allow another Democrat to lead the Democratic ticket in 2024.
In an interview with CBS News airing Friday, Phillips said he has studied polling and is concerned about how Democrats would perform in another matchup between Biden and former president Donald Trump, who is the clear polling leader for Republicans.
“I’m representing what I believe to be the majority of the country that wants to turn the page,” Phillips said recently on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Tired of the meanness and the fearmongering of Donald Trump. I would like to see Joe Biden, a wonderful and remarkable man, pass the torch, cement this extraordinary legacy.”
Phillips has also expressed concerns about Biden’s age and potential for health problems.
“God forbid the president has a health episode or something happens in the middle of a primary,” Phillips said in an interview with The Post earlier this year.
Phillip faces extremely long odds to beat Biden for the Democratic nomination.
Phillips has already missed the filing deadline in Nevada, among the early nominating states. While he is making a concerted play in New Hampshire, he faces steep climbs elsewhere, including in South Carolina, a state that Biden president credits for setting him on the path to the 2020 nomination.
Phillips’s national name identification at this point is negligible. And he has a long history of supporting Biden. Phillips has voted consistently with the Democratic president, and it remains unclear what his message would be to voters about how he distinguishes himself from his party’s leader.
Besides Biden and Phillips, author Marianne Williamson is also running as a Democrat, just as she did in 2020. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. launched his campaign as a Democrat but recently decided to run as an independent instead.
Henry is Phillips’s Norwich terrier and office “paw-liamentarian,” according to his Instagram account, @henry.on.the.hill. A frequent visitor to the Capitol, Henry can be spotted greeting staffers and lawmakers alike. Phillips sponsored a 2022 bill that was named after the dog — the Helping Employees Navigate Rabies Regulations from over Yonder (or Henry) Act, which sought to allow federal personnel stationed abroad to return to the United States with dogs. It did not receive a vote and was not enacted into law.