Democrat Dean Phillips declares against Paulsen

Dean Phillips announced a campaign for Congress in Minnesota’s 3rd District on May 16, 2017. Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Business owner Dean Phillips of Deephaven Tuesday launched a congressional campaign against 3rd District Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen.

Phillips is a first-time candidate who served as the 5th generation president and CEO of his family’s Phillips Distilling Co. business. He grew up in Edina and holds degrees from Brown University and the U of M’s Carlson School of Management.

Phillips said he’s concerned about the direction the country is headed and that even though he’s running as a Democrat, he would be a “trusted, very independent voice for the people of Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District.”

“I can no longer sit on the sidelines,” Phillips said. “I believe America’s best days are ahead and wish to inspire a new generation of leaders willing to put partisanship aside for the good of country.”

Paulsen’s voting record shows he’s not the moderate he claims to be, said Phillips in an interview.

“His vote on health care, I believe, was abhorrent. I believe that bill will do the exact opposite of what they claim it will. There’s an age tax. I think it will make health care more expensive and available to fewer people.”

Paulsen’s campaign said he is focused on work in Congress and that there will be plenty of time for campaigning next year.

Phillips co-owns and operates Penny’s Coffee in downtown Minneapolis and says he has plans to expand locations throughout the Twin Cities in the coming months.

Democrats see an opportunity in the 3rd District. Paulsen handily won re-election last fall, beating his DFL opponent by more than 10 percentage points, but Democrat Hillary Clinton won the district by almost 10 points.

Democrats hope dissatisfaction with President Trump and other Republicans will help them flip the district in next year’s mid-term elections.

More Democrats could get into the race to run against Paulsen.