Dean Phillips is a fresh, positive voice on Minnesota’s political scene who could be part of a new generation in Congress that moves this country back to a more civil, fact-based, grass-roots representation. Despite the Editorial Board’s past support for Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen — and respect for his bipartisan accomplishments in Congress — Phillips earned our endorsement in the Third Congressional District.
Phillips, 49, has described himself as fiscally responsible, socially inclusive and independent-minded. That’s a plus in a Congress filled with those taking marching orders from their caucus. A driving motivation behind Phillips’ campaign has been, as he calls it, “reducing the influence of affluence” in politics. He takes no corporate or PAC money, relying instead on individual contributions. That stance goes a long way to ensuring a level of independence for a new legislator.
In contrast to Paulsen, 53, who has stubbornly stuck mostly to screened telephone forums and other controlled settings, Phillips has been more than willing to engage with voters, stopping his campaign truck for spontaneous interactions. He’s held educational forums on issues — a practice he says he would maintain if elected.
Phillips is a wealthy businessman and philanthropist. He’s also a Gold Star son who lost his father in Vietnam as an infant. His mother’s remarriage changed the course of his life. The result is a blend of humility, practicality and determination to “do for others as was done for me.”
On health care, a top focus of voters in this election, Phillips favors a Medicare-type buy-in that would expand choices rather than narrow them. A former board chairman of Allina, Phillips knows a model that rewards prevention and outcomes over procedures will stretch health care dollars more effectively. He wants to reclaim this country’s role as a climate change leader by pursuing market-based solutions and incentives for clean-energy production.
Paulsen’s voting record is reliably conservative, but he has broken with leadership in several instances, including signing a discharge petition in an attempt to bring immigration legislation to the floor — an effort that failed. However, Paulsen has not been the loud voice that should come with five terms and choice committees.
Paulsen is heavily financed by PACs and wealthy donors, who are responsible for more than 90 percent of his $5.1 million raised to date. In fact, of 435 House members, he ranks fifth for PAC donations. After earlier saying he had not loaned his campaign any money, Phillips recently informed the Editorial Board and news reporters that he planned to loan his campaign $1.3 million to compete against a wave of negative ads.
Paulsen disappointed many with his decision to air one of the worst attack ads of this election cycle — a blast that attempted to heap blame on Phillips and the entire Allina Health board over a years-ago harassment lawsuit brought by a small group of nurses. The ad drew a strong and appropriate rebuke from former Medtronic CEO and Allina board chairman Bill George, among others.
It was an uncharacteristically low tactic for Paulsen, whom the Editorial Board has long respected for his decency, moderate tone and bipartisan work on issues such as sex trafficking and opioid abuse.
Phillips lines up more closely with the Editorial Board on issues such as transit and campaign finance reform, and he’ll represent those voters who felt ignored by Paulsen. It’s time for new leadership in the Third District — someone who will listen more to constituents and less to moneyed special interests.