Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

Rep. Dean Phillips won’t run for a new term in the 3rd District. It could put the seat on the national radar

Democratic Representative
Representative Dean Phillips won’t run for a new term in the 3rd District as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination.
Gaelen Morse | Getty Images

In 2024, Minnesota will have an open congressional seat in an area that’s been politically competitive in the past.

Rep. Dean Phillips won’t run for a new term in the 3rd District as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. It could put the seat on the national radar along with another Minnesota race that already is — for the 2nd District seat held by Rep. Angie Craig.

MPR News senior politics reporter Dana Ferguson joined MPR News host Cathy Wurzer to discuss the Phillips decision and the dynamics it introduces.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

[OPEN CHORD MUSIC] CATHY WURZER: In 2024, Minnesota will have an open Congressional seat in an area that's been politically competitive in the past. Representative Dean Phillips won't run for a new term in the third district as he seeks the Democratic Presidential nomination. It could put the seat on the national radar, along with another Minnesota race that already is, for the second district seat held by Representative Angie Craig. Hamline University Political Science Professor David Schultz says having two suburban seats at play could affect both races.

DAVID SCHULTZ: So Republicans are looking at this saying, maybe we can pick this one up-- or, if we can't pick this one up, force the Democrats to have to put money into this race, which then every dollar the DCCC-- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-- has to put into this race, it's potentially one less dollar it can put into Angie Craig's race.

CATHY WURZER: NPR Political Reporter Dana Ferguson is here to talk about the Phillips decision and the dynamics it introduces. Hey, Dana. Welcome.

DANA FERGUSON: Hey, thanks for having me, Cathy.

CATHY WURZER: So Congressman Phillips made his announcement that he's not going to seek re-election during the Thanksgiving weekend. So some folks might have missed that. What reasons did he give?

DANA FERGUSON: He said it's time for him to pass the torch and let another candidate take over the seat once his term comes to a close. And that means stepping aside in that race. That pass-the-torch mantra is central to his presidential campaign as well, so this dovetails. Minnesota's filing deadline isn't until June, so he could have remained in the Congressional race while campaigning for president. But he told the Star-Tribune that he believes he'll still be in the thick of the Presidential race at that point, so he's going all-in on the Presidential race.

CATHY WURZER: OK, so there are already a couple of people interested in his seat even before he made his announcement. Tell us about the Democrats running or considering it.

DANA FERGUSON: Two candidates-- State Senator Kelly Morrison and Ron Harris-- have already announced that they're running. Morrison is an OB/GYN and has been a proponent for legal changes guaranteeing the right to reproductive health care services during her time at the Capitol. Harris is a former Minneapolis City official and Democratic National Committee member, and at least one other prominent DFL'er-- Secretary of State Steve Simon-- has said he's considering running. Phillips said Friday that he is equally excited about both Harris and Morrison as candidates.

CATHY WURZER: Now, prior to Phillips' election in 2019, the district was represented for years by Republicans Eric Paulsen and Jim Ramstad. I'm wondering here, Dana, are any names being floated on the Republican side?

DANA FERGUSON: The news that Phillips won't run again has generated more optimism from Republicans there, for sure. Local GOP leaders have said they're still working to find a candidate that can reflect that suburban district and its values. A couple names have circulated so far. Representative Kristen Robbins, for one, and former Attorney General candidate Jim Schultz both told me they're not seeking that seat. Kendall and Sheila Quarles, entrepreneurs who are active in conservative circles, have also been mentioned, but they've yet to say whether they would run. Blaze Hardy has filed as a Republican. His campaign website says that he runs a construction company.

CATHY WURZER: So give us a sense of the timetables here.

DANA FERGUSON: The political parties will host endorsing conventions in the spring. Candidates will face a June deadline to file or to step aside. And then, we'll have potential partisan primaries in August.

CATHY WURZER: Now, Professor Schultz mentioned this in the little cut we had in the introduction, but maybe you could expand on it. How might a vacancy in the Third District affect what's been happening and what will be happening with this intense contest brewing around Angie Craig in the Second?

DANA FERGUSON: The Second District is still viewed as the most competitive in the state, and as Professor Scholz mentioned, time, money, and focus pulled from that district could make a difference. National GOP groups have said their focus will still be on the race in the Second District, but if a strong Third District candidate emerges, or if there's a bruising DFL primary, their focus could be recast to include both districts.

CATHY WURZER: Say, before you go here, anybody of note stood up to challenge Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar? She's going for a fourth term.

DANA FERGUSON: Not so far. Republicans had said they hope to have a candidate earlier this fall, but no one of political prominence has come forward yet. There are four little-known Republican candidates who have opened campaign committees, but none had reported raising any money as of the end of September. Klobuchar has more than $4 million banked for her campaign.

CATHY WURZER: All right. Well, 2024 will be an interesting year. Thank you, Dana.

DANA FERGUSON: Thanks, Cathy. Have a good one.

CATHY WURZER: You too. Dana Ferguson is a political reporter for NPR News.

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