Rep. Dean Phillips made his run against President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary official Thursday night, ahead of a trip to New Hampshire where he’ll officially register to be on the Granite State’s ballot.
The 54-year-old father-of-two from Minnesota who is one of the richest members of Congress confirmed the open secret to CBS’ Bob Costa answering, ‘I am, I have to,’ when asked if he was planning to seek the presidency.
‘I think President Biden has done a spectacular job for our country, but it’s not about the past. This is an election about the future. I will not sit still, I will not be quiet in the face of numbers that are so clearly saying that we’re going to be facing an emergency next November,’ Phillips said.
Phillips had done everything to announce a run without saying it was happening – parking his ‘government repair truck’ in front of New Hampshire’s Capitol building in Concord, having volunteers pass out flyers for a Friday rally and having a presidential campaign bus drive to the state.
As a businessman,Phillips sold Americans on spending a little more of their dough on products like Belvedere vodka or Talenti gelato, but as a presidential candidate he wants to save people money – the bus uses the tagline: ‘Make America Affordable Again.’
Rep. Dean Phillips attends President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021 with his wife Annalise. The 54-year-old congressman will challenge the 80-year-old president for the Democratic nomination arguing that he’s too old to go for a second term
Phillips on Capitol Hill. The congressman was first elected in 2018, flipping a long-held Republican district two years into former President Donald Trump’s tenure
Phillips with his daughters Pia (left) and Daniela (right). The Minnesota lawmaker is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, and brought Belvedere vodka to the United States
Phillips will be the first Democrat with government experience to challenge the 80-year-old Biden, who announced in April he would seek a second term.
Despite Phillips’ campaign bus hinting the campaign would have an economic focus, it will be difficult to differentiate himself from Biden, as he’s voted with the Democratic president 100 percent of the time.
The real issue for him is that Biden, in his view – which he shares with a majority of Americans – is that the president is too old to run for a second term.
‘I think the country would be well-served by a new generation of compelling, well-prepared, dynamic Democrats who step up,’ Phillips said during a radio interview in July, declining to support a second Biden presidential run.
An AP-NORC poll from August said 77 percent of Americans – including 69 percent of Democrats – said Biden is too old to be effective for four more years.
Phillips said that Biden would need to be ’15-20 years younger’ to receive a ringing endorsement from him.
Phillips chose New Hampshire for the campaign launch because it holds the first primary – and Biden won’t be appearing on the ballot.
Traditionally, New Hampshire holds the nation’s first primary days after the Iowa caucuses – but after the Iowa Democratic Party couldn’t tabulate the 2020 results for hours and Biden’s first win came in South Carolina – the president greenlit a plan to reorder the Democratic primaries.
But New Hampshire has a law on its books that it must hold the first primary and Republicans control state government, so the Granite State will hold an unsanctioned Democratic primary instead.
Phillips right stands in front of a Phillips Distilling Company truck. His mother married into the Phillips family and the congresman took charge of the company in 1993, getting the rights to bring Belvedere vodka, a state-owned Polish brand, to the United States
Phillips, a divorced father of two daughters, remarried Annalise Glick in 2019
This opens the door for Phillips, or another challenger, to beat Biden in the state – unless Biden supporters can successfully pull off a write-in campaign.
Phillips will likely play up his backstory, which is one of both sadness and good fortune.
As six months old, the congressman’s birth father, Artie Pfefer, was killed in action in Vietnam.
His mother DeeDee remarried a man named Eddie Phillips, who was the heir to the Phillips Distilling Company, which today is the largest booze producer in Minnesota.
Eddie’s mother was Pauline Phillips, who started the advice column, ‘Dear Abby.’
Eddie adopted Dean as his son.
Phillips was sent to Brown University and then received an MBA from the University of Minnesota.
From there, he took over as president and CEO of Phillips Distilling Company in 1993.
As early win for Phillips was recounted in a Forbes profile of the aspiring congressman in 2017.
The ‘Government Repair Truck’ that Phillips used during his Congressional run was outside the New Hampshire state capitol Thursday ahead of his official campaign kick-off
Phillips’ mom DeeDee with Eddie Phillips, the heir to a liquor fortune who she married after the congressman’s father died in Vietnam
Phillips and other Minnesota lawmakers stand outside Air Force One after getting a ride to the state from Biden. Phillips has voted with Biden 100 percent of the time but argues the president is too old to run for a second term
Phillips’ dog Henry, a Norwich terrier, is often seen on Capitol Hill
Phillips traveled to Poland where he and family members discovered a state-owned vodka called Belvedere – served in an ornate frosted glass bottle.
‘It was those bottles that inspired us,’ Phillips told Forbes, ‘to eventually create the luxury category with the introduction of Belvedere.’
He bought the right to import Belvedere to the U.S. and in 1995 sent bottles to a number of celebrities, implementing a modern-day influencer campaign a decade before most social media sites were online.
‘We created a couple hundred very beautiful gift boxes of Belvedere and sent them to 200 leaders of industry, and actors and actresses, and celebrities and artists,’ Phillips told Forbes. ‘We did an ad in the Wall Street Journal in the “Tiffany section” – page three, top right corner – that spoke only to those 200 people that received that box in the mail that week.’
The ploy did the trick.
Phillips eventually sold the rights to Belvedere to luxury giant LVMH a decade later.
In 2012, Phillips moved over and led the company Talenti gelato, which started as a tiny Dallas gelato-maker.
A picture of Phillips in his youth
A picture of Phillips’ fahter Artie Pfefer, who perished fighting in Vietnam six months after the now-congressman was born
Phillips shows off a trans flag in his office. The congressman holds many of the same positions as Biden, but is pushing for a new generation of leadership
Under Phillips it’s now an up-market brand sold in grocery stores around the country.
He sold it to Unilever in 2014 – when sales were reaching $120 million – to Unilever for an undisclosed sum.
But not every business endeavor has been a money-making success.
After Talenti, Phillips invested in a coffee and crepe shop concept in 2016 that went belly-up in 2022, with the two Twin Cities locations of Penny’s Coffee closing their doors.
But for Congressional runs and now a presidential campaign, Phillips has one indispensable attribute – money.
The ‘charming liquor heir,’ as he was first branded when he ran for Congress in 2018 – objecting to another businessman, former President Donald Trump’s, handling of the presidency – has between $20.5 million to $70 million in assets, according to last year’s disclosure report.
In his first bid, the moderate Democrat was able to turn a suburban Minneapolis congressional district blue for the first time since 1958.
On the family front, Phillips is a divorced dad of two daughters – Daniela and Pia, with Pia being a cancer survivor.
He married Annalise Glick in 2019.
His dog Henry, a Norwich Terrier, is often seen on Capitol Hill.