Democratic challenger Dean Phillips has poured $1.3 million of his own money into his 3rd Congressional District campaign to unseat Republican U.S. House Rep. Erik Paulsen.
Phillips, a businessman and first-time candidate, made the loans to his campaign in three installments this month, including $500,000 this week. It comes amid an intense and expensive race that has already topped $20 million in overall spending.
The suburban district that runs west and north of Minneapolis is viewed as pivotal to the Democratic hopes of reclaiming control of Congress. Paulsen won his last election despite the district’s voters backing Hillary Clinton for president over Donald Trump by about 10 percentage points.
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Phillips had previously held back on putting substantial personal funds into his race and once told an interviewer that, while not ruling it out, he frowned on the idea. But he said it was necessary to keep pace with Paulsen in the campaign’s closing weeks.
“I offered Congressman Paulsen the opportunity to run this campaign the Minnesota Way — without special interest money and without self-funding — but he refused time and time again,” said Phillips. “Congressman Paulsen is benefiting from millions more being spent on his behalf on despicable ads filled with lies and objectively misleading claims. On behalf of a district that demands principled representation, I will not let Erik Paulsen and out-of-state special interests buy this election.”
Paulsen had far more money in his account than Phillips in his latest report with regulators.
Paulsen’s campaign criticized Phillips for pumping so much into his bid so late.
“Dean Phillips confirmed today his whole campaign was built on a lie. Despite calling self-funding not democratic, Phillips is giving his campaign over a million dollars of his inherited wealth, ditching his self-proclaimed number-one issue to buy the only thing that hasn’t been handed to him-a seat in Congress,” John-Paul Yates, Paulsen’s campaign manager, said in a written statement.
Phillips is not the only candidate to make a big loan to a campaign this year. Republican U.S. Senate nominee Karin Housley had loaned her campaign $180,000 earlier this year.