Former ‘chief resilience officer’ for Minneapolis says he’s exploring a run for Phillips’ seat

Ron Harris, a rising star among DFL activists, appears to be mounting a primary campaign against Phillips, who continues to criticize Joe Biden's ability to win re-election in 2024.

The three-term U.S. House member from Wayzata may face a primary challenger.(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Congressman Dean Phillips has publicly toyed with the idea of recruiting a fellow Democrat to primary President Joe Biden in 2024. He’s even flirted with the idea of running for president himself.

Now the three-term U.S. House member from Wayzata may face a primary challenger of his own.

This week, Democrat activist Ron Harris publicly acknowledged he is “exploring” a run for Minnesota’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“As Dean considers a run for President, I’m exploring a run for Congress to ensure this district stays in Democratic hands,” Harris said in a social media post on Thursday. “Toward that end, I’d love to hear about issues important to you and what you think our community needs. Shoot me a note!”

Harris, a progressive political organizer and member of the Democratic National Committee’s Executive Committee, worked for four years for the city of Minneapolis as its “chief resilience officer.” This spring he received the Hubert H. Humphrey Award for Dedication and Leadership from the Minnesota DFL. In recent weeks, he’s floated his name to media members and to political power brokers in DFL circles as a potential intra-party challenger to Phillips in 2024.

‘Making calls and putting a team together’

story by the Washington D.C.-based political insider website PunchBowl News was first to report that Harris has been “making calls and putting a team together” to run for the Third District seat, which represents a number of west metro cities, including Maple Grove, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Bloomington and Edina. Phillips told the outlet, “I welcome and encourage competition both in the district I represent and in races across the nation.”

Harris, who says he cut his teeth in Democratic politics when he volunteered as a college student to get out the vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, currently serves as chair for the DNC Midwest Caucus.

Minnesota DFL Party chair Ken Martin hasn’t yet spoken publicly about Harris as a potential challenger to Phillips. But Martin has been outspoken in his support of Joe Biden running for a second term, especially this summer around the same time Phillips conducted several interviews on national and Twin Cities television, magazines and radio suggesting Biden was too old to serve as president beyond 2024, and might not be able to beat Donald Trump, should Trump win the GOP nomination.

Phillips, who has represented the Third District since he unseated five-term Republican Erik Paulsen in 2018, has been vocal in recent months about the need for a viable Democrat to challenge President Biden. He’s cited Biden’s age as a major reason he’d like to see someone else as the Democratic nominee for the 2024 presidential election. He’s also expressed concern Biden may not be able to beat Trump in a general election. While Phillips initially walked back some of those comments over the summer, he spoke again in recent days about his desire to see someone else mount a viable primary challenge to the leader of his party.

Those statements have drawn criticism from his Democratic colleagues inside the Beltway and in his home state. It’s also what Phillips admitted in an interview with CNN led to his resignation last week from leading the U.S. House Democratic Policy and Communications Caucus.

“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,” Phillips said over the weekend in a statement to the media.

Biden criticism dates back more than a year

Phillips began critiquing Biden’s fitness for re-election more than a year ago during a July 2022 interview he conducted with Minnesota-based WCCO Radio.

“I have respect for Joe Biden,” Phillips told WCCO radio host Chad Hartman at the time. “I think he has, despite some mistakes and some missteps, despite his age, I think he’s a man of decency, of good principle, of compassion, of empathy, and of strength.”

“But to answer your question directly, which I know is quite rare, uh no, I don’t,” Phillips said when asked if he wanted to see Biden run in 2024. “I think the country would be well served by a new generation of compelling, well-prepared, dynamic Democrats to step up.”

While Phillips has won each of his three races for the MN CD3 seat by a double-digit margin, prior to his 11-point win over Paulsen in 2018, that seat had been in Republican hands for nearly a half century.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.