While Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips continues his longshot campaign to wrest away the Democrat nomination for president from incumbent Joe Biden, the Wayzata millionaire officially announced on Friday that he’ll no longer pursue a fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Representing our nation’s most civically engaged community in Congress has been the most joyful experience of my life,” Phillips said in a social media post shortly after noon on Friday. “Now it’s time to pass the torch — with gratitude and optimism.”
Phillips’ decision to not seek another term representing Minnesota’s Third District in Congress while he runs for president comes just two weeks after his longtime friend Kelly Morrison, a DFL state senator from Deephaven, announced she would run for the Third District seat.
“I’m thrilled [Kelly Morrison] is entering the MN-03 primary because healthy democracies promote competition, don’t limit it, and voters appoint their Representatives, not a person or political party. Same should be true for Presidents,” Phillips said in a Nov. 9 social media post after Morrison announced she was running for Congress.
Morrison, a medical doctor, is a progressive DFLer who sponsored a number of politically divisive bills at the State Capitol, including: making Minnesota a ranked choice voting state, allowing terminally ill patients to self-administer a pill that would end their life, and expanding a mining ban in northeastern Minnesota by an additional 1.9 million acres.
Another DFLer, political activist and former Minneapolis chief resilience officer, Ron Harris, was the first to launch a campaign to seek the Democrat nomination for the Third District seat.
Phillips promised to drop out in March if presidential path isn’t viable
Just a few weeks ago Phillips promised that he would drop out of the presidential race by March 5 if his campaign isn’t viable. Many speculated he would then still run for a fourth term in Congress, which would have set up a three-way primary between himself, Morrison, and DNC Executive Committee member Harris.
Phillips has received heavy criticism from Democrats nationally and locally since officially launching his presidential campaign in October. One DFL state senator, Bonnie Westlin of Plymouth, called on Phillips to resign from Congress. And a group of eight legislators from the Third District publicly distanced themselves from Phillips when they announced they had “enthusiastically endorsed” Biden for re-election.
Minnesota Republican Party officials courting candidates
The Minnesota DFL Party issued a statement reflecting on the news Phillips was no longer pursuing re-election to the U.S. House by thanking him for his “100 percent voting record supporting President Biden’s historic accomplishments.”
“There are several talented DFLers who would be great representatives for the 3rd district who understand the importance of re-electing Joe Biden and keeping this seat blue,” DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said.
No one has emerged publicly, yet, to declare they will seek the Republican endorsement for the Third District seat. The last time it was held by a Republican was in 2018, when incumbent Erik Paulsen lost his re-election bid for a sixth term to then-challenger Dean Phillips. But officials with the Republican Party of Minnesota said Friday that they’ve already “been in touch with several individuals who are interested in running.”
“Dean Phillips has been openly sharing what no other Democrat will: Joe Biden’s failed policies are going to be detrimental to Democrats up and down the ticket next year,” Minnesota GOP officials said in a press statement. “Not only does Phillips think Biden will lose to the Republican presidential nominee, but it’s now clear that he also thinks Biden’s policies have jeopardized his congressional seat that was Republican-held just a few years ago.”
Prior to Phillips’ 11-point win over Paulsen in November 2018, the west metro seat was in Republican hands for nearly half a century. While Paulsen was a pro-life, fiscal conservative, his predecessor Jim Ramstad was regarded as more moderate and was famously a pro-choice Republican.
While the Third District boundaries have shifted a bit in recent redistricting, the seat is thought by some to still be a possible toss-up depending on the field of candidates.
In Phillips’ last two re-election campaigns, he defeated Republican challengers by double digits.
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.