Who is Dean Phillips? The Minnesota rep challenging Biden in 2024

Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips is making a longshot bid for Democratic president of the United States in 2024, and he knows it.

The relatively new member of Congress announced in October that he would directly challenge President Joe Biden for the White House saying voters need an alternative Democratic candidate.

“If President Biden is the Democratic nominee, we face an unacceptable risk of Trump being back in the White House,” Mr Phillips wrote on X.

For months, the Democratic rep has been critical of Mr Biden’s re-election campaign, claiming the president’s age and faltering approval rating would deter voters away from the Democratic Party.

But even though Mr Biden is surely going to be the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) nominee, Mr Phillips has decided to enter the race.

“I know this campaign is a long shot, but that is why I think it is important and worth doing,” Mr Phillips said.

Now, the business owner-turned-congressman will have to introduce himself to voters and make a case for their vote.

Who is Dean Phillips?

Mr Phillips, 54, has been representing Minnesota’s 3rd congressional district since 2019 after he defeated the six-term Republican incumbent. He became the first Democrat to flip the Republican district since 1958.

That is, in part, thanks to Mr Phillips’s moderate-left views and his strong financial backing.

Before his election in 2018, Mr Phillips was the co-founder of Penny’s Coffee –a small cafe chain in the Twin Cities - and helped run Talenti Gelato, the luxury gelato and sorbet producer. He was also the president and CEO of his family’s distilling company, Phillips Distillery until it was sold to LVMH.

Mr Phillips’s business background makes him one of the wealthiest members of the House of Representatives with an estimated net worth of $65m in 2018, according to OpenSecrets.

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN)(R) holds a rally outside of the N.H. Statehouse after handing over his declaration of candidacy form for President to the New Hampshire Secretary of State (Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN)(R) holds a rally outside of the N.H. Statehouse after handing over his declaration of candidacy form for President to the New Hampshire Secretary of State (Getty Images)

Mr Phillips grew up in Minnesota in a Gold Star family; his father died during the Vietnam War. His mother remarried Edward Phillips, who was known for revolutionising the vodka industry with luxury products.

His grandmother was Abigail Van Buren, the late advice columnist known as “Dear Abby”.

Mr Phillips has two daughters from his first marriage and is currently married to Annalise Glick.

In Congress, Mr Phillips is on the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Committee on Small Business. He is part of the New Democrat Coalition, Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and Problem Solvers Caucus.

Until recently, he co-chaired the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Mr Phillips stepped down after receiving backlash within his party for criticising Mr Biden and challenging his re-election campaign, according to The New York Times.

Mr Phillips believes Mr Biden should step aside and make room for younger candidates on the ballot.

"I think President Biden has done a spectacular job for our country. But it’s not about the past. This is an election about the future,” he told CBS News. 

Where does Dean Phillips stand on the issues?

Mr Phillips’s views largely align with Mr Biden and other Democrats.

He supported Mr Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, is pro-choice, an LGBT+ supporter and believes in gun control.

On the Israel-Hamas conflict, Mr Phillips Minnesota Public Radio News the US should continue to support Israel and “encourage Palestinians to elevate a leadership that can sit at the table with principle, with good character and with the intention for peace.”

Mr Phillips, who is Jewish, said he believes in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.