Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) — who launched a long-shot presidential primary bid against President Biden last month — announced Friday he wouldn’t run for reelection to the House in 2024.
“It’s time to pass the torch, it’s time for change, and our best days are yet to come!” Phillips wrote in an X post on Friday that linked to a Star Tribune story where he first announced his decision. Phillips told the Minnesota news organization it would be “irresponsible to continue to string both my constituents along and the other candidates who both have entered the race and who might be interested in entering the race.”
In 2018, Phillips flipped Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses many of the suburbs in the western half of the Twin Cities metro area. Phillips was the first Democrat to win there since 1958 and he went on to win reelection twice.
Congressional candidates in Minnesota have until June 4 to file paperwork to appear on the ballot, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. The Star Tribune quoted Phillips saying, “The fact is, I intend to be running for president well beyond that.”
Phillips is framing his decision to leave his seat after three terms with the generational argument he has made on the presidential campaign trail. “ I think one of our problems in the United States right now is the unwillingness of people in positions of power … to pass the torch,” he told the Star Tribune.
And after one user on X said Phillips had “torched” his career in Congress, Phillips replied, “Absolutely!” and that “we need more people willing to torpedo their positions. It shouldn’t be a career. That’s the whole darn problem.”
In late October, the 54-year-old Phillips announced he would challenge Biden — who turned 81 earlier this week — for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying the president should “pass the torch” to a new generation. Phillips has built out a campaign team that included top strategists who worked on the presidential campaigns of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Andrew Yang.
His in-person campaigning in New Hampshire got off to a rocky start when he faced screaming and profanity from voters disappointed in his response to a question on a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war. He also was accused of gaslighting the lone Black woman in attendance, who was escorted out of the event — but not before a handful of other attendees walked out.
But Phillips is getting help from a new super PAC that recently launched ads in that state and the Washington area, comparing Biden’s campaign to a burning dynamite fuse overlaid on news headlines about his struggles and recent polling results showing him trailing former president Donald Trump. According to one person familiar with the ads who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private strategy, more than $1 million was spent on the initial ads.
Several ads from the super PAC use President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address as narration to argue that it is once again time to “pass the torch” to a new generation of leaders. The name of the super PAC running the ads is Pass the Torch.
Phillips’s challenge to the head of his party has confounded some colleagues, and caused rifts with fellow Democrats. Before launching his campaign, he stepped down from his House leadership role as the co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which coordinates messaging among the House Democrats.
When he resigned from that job, Phillips said his “convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of [his] caucus.”
Meryl Kornfield, Tyler Pager, Michael Scherer, Maegan Vazquez, Amy B Wang and Dylan Wells contributed reporting.