Editor’s note: This article comes to us from InDepthNH.org, a nonprofit watchdog news platform published by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism. The Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN) has received permission from InDepthNH.org to share that news organization’s articles focused on U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips’ presidential campaign.
CONCORD, N.H. – Minnesota Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips is hopeful he’ll win New Hampshire citizens’ votes as he travels throughout the state ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary on Jan. 23.
Amid criticism from his party and increasing voter disapproval for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump as the likely matchup for the 2024 election, Phillips expressed urgency for change during his visit to Concord on Thursday, Dec. 7.
Traditionally, a politician running against their own party’s incumbent president is unheard of — and Phillips was warned such a move would be damaging.
Phillips, 54, a Wayzata resident and representative of Minnesota’s Third District in Congress, announced last month that he would not seek reelection. Currently in his third term, his district includes Eden Prairie, along with other western and southwestern metro communities.
“I was told, ‘You’re going to torpedo your career,’ but I will not sit down and shush up,” Phillips said.
“If you’re not willing to torpedo your career in Washington, you almost can’t get anything done, and that’s why we have a culture that nothing gets done,” Phillips told New Hampshire Today radio host Chris Ryan during an event later that evening at The Barley House in Concord.
“I’m the only one of 535 people who is willing to say the quiet part out loud: when 70-sum percent of the country does not want either of these leading candidates on the ballot, and only one member of the Congress of the 535 people is willing to say it?”
“I wish we had more people willing to do the same,” Phillips said.
But he recognizes his chances are slim.
“We’re a country of longshots,” Phillips said at The Barley House event. “What is more American than being a longshot?”
Phillips said his campaign is fueled by his concern for Trump being elected once again, as he does not have faith that President Biden will beat him again.
“I believe democracy is at stake,” Phillips said.
Despite his own disdain for Trump, he hopes to invite Trump supporters and all voters to support his campaign.
“I have great animus towards Donald Trump,” Phillips said. “I have none towards the people who support him.”
Besides Trump, Phillips said the most pressing issue in the country right now is what he calls a “crisis of affordability” of housing, education, and healthcare. For his first act if elected president, Phillips said he would produce seven million units of new housing — something he thinks is entirely feasible.
“I was jarred when I was in Manchester and saw guys in Veteran’s Park,” Phillips said. “I really did not think about smaller communities in America, and I don’t think most of my colleagues know, that people are sleeping outside, or in their cars, or on couches every single night.”
Phillips criticized President Biden for being out-of-touch with understanding business and supply and demand, such as the availability of housing.
“He has only been a Washington politician,” Phillips said. “He has not built businesses, he has not owned a coffee shop like I have. He has not done it, it’s not his fault, but he hasn’t.”
Phillips is the former president of his family’s company, Phillips Distilling, the former co-owner of Talenti Gelato, and co-owns the business Penny’s Coffee.
“When we’re trying to attack problems that require innovative thinking and require market principles, I don’t think he’s got the potential to do it.”
After failed attempts to oust New Hampshire as the first-in-the-nation primary, President Biden ultimately decided not to appear on the primary ballot at all. And more recently, the Democratic parties in North Carolina and Florida announced they would not hold a presidential primary with Biden as the only submitted nominee, leaving Phillips out of the race in two states.
“I am deeply concerned about the state of the Democratic party and the state of democracy in America,” Phillips said. “It’s not Democrats suppressing Republican voters, this is Democrats suppressing Democratic voters.”
One of Phillips’ points of pride is his claim that he is the “only member of Congress” to refuse all money from lobbyists, special interest groups, Political Action Committees, and decision to not have his own leadership Political Action Committee.
“Public service should not just be the domain of the wealthy and the well-connected,” Phillips said. “10,000 hours per week is what members of Congress collectively spend raising money, much of it during the day.”
Phillips is concerned that his fellow politicians are listening to the sources of money, rather than the rest of the population.
“Ninety-five percent of the country is literally being unheard, unaddressed, unappreciated, and unrecognized,” Phillips said. “The system is rewarding the wrong behavior, and it is shutting off access to the most important people in the country, which is hard-working Americans.”
Phillips envisions an overhaul of the political system through a Constitutional amendment. He wants to see an end to gerrymandering, greater competition to the two-party system, implementation of nationwide ranked-choice voting to be more inclusive to independent candidates, and put an end to Citizens United, a ruling that enabled unlimited campaign funding from interest groups and corporations.
“I’m not saying I can accomplish it; I’m saying I’m going to shine light on it,” Phillips said.
In Congress, Phillips is a member of the PFAS Task Force alongside New Hampshire Congressman Chris Pappas and has witnessed the impacts of the contamination of these forever chemicals in his home state of Minnesota, much like what has happened to Merrimack.
“It’s the responsibility of the federal government of the United States to ensure that Americans are safe, secure, and protected, and they have recourse when they’ve been abused knowingly,” Phillips said.
Following the announcement of a 15-day abortion ban bill by Republican legislators in New Hampshire, New Hampshire Today host Chris Ryan asked Phillips about his stance on abortion in the country. Phillips was “passionately pro-choice.”
“I believe that government must stay out of the way of how a woman treats her body and what she does with her body, period,” Phillips said. “It is no place for a male like me to have anything to do with that.”
Phillips again showed his determination to engage in a dialogue with those who challenge his perspectives. He cited an exchange with a Dartmouth College student who he said was vehemently pro-life. Phillips said the two found common ground in providing greater support for mothers and their prospective children.
“The toughest issue to talk about right now might actually be the one we can start with, because that’s how you find the common cause,” Phillips said. “I’m deeply concerned with a country that is unwilling to sit down and talk about this. There is a crisis of participation. There is a crisis of unity.”
Another core aspect of Phillips identity is his Jewish faith. He said he was “horrified” by the conflict in Gaza and the “bloodshed on both sides.”
“What Hamas did is some of the most staggering and inhumane acts of violence I’ve ever seen,” Phillips said. “And the bloodshed now in Gaza is hard to watch, hard to palate, and hard to imagine. These two truths can be true at once.”
Phillips said he strongly supports both Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state where he hopes a democracy will arise with a government of peace, without the control of Hamas looming over its people.
“I want to be the first Jewish president in American history who signs documents that help establish a Palestinian state for the first time,” Phillips said. “It’s time for the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel faction to take hands instead of take arms.”
Phillips is concerned about his own Jewish identity, however, as anti-Semitism is on the rise in the country.
“I’m 54 years old, and until I was 52, I had never experienced even a modicum of those fears or concerns, and now I am en masse,” Phillips said. “But that’s not going to stop me.”
A paragraph detailing Phillips’ Minnesota background has been added to the story by EPLN for further context.
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