MINNEAPOLIS — Republican medical technology executive Kendall Qualls will launch a congressional bid Monday, his campaign said, taking aim at first-term Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips in a swing suburban district.
Qualls was to announce his bid in a video posted to his website and social media accounts, said campaign spokesman Gregg Peppin, who ran Rep. Jim Hagedorn's successful campaign for southern Minnesota's 1st District seat last year.
If he wins, Qualls would become Minnesota's first black GOP member of Congress. He has yet to publicly stake out any policy positions, but on Tuesday became the first Republican to register for the race.
The Medina resident is executive vice president with PotentiaMetrics, an Austin, Texas-based data analytics company that he has described as "a disruptive startup company empowering patients with cancer" using artificial intelligence. His LinkedIn profile says he was "recruited to raise capital, expand customer base and accelerate revenue growth."
His profile on PotentiaMetrics' website says he spent more than 20 years leading marketing and sales teams in the biopharmaceutical and medical technology industries at companies including Medtronic, Covidien and Johnson & Johnson. For the past 10 years, it says, he has been "tapped to lead new product launches or recruited to revive stalled or declining businesses." He also served as a captain in the Army for five years. It says he holds an MBA from the University of Michigan, a master of arts from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor's degree from Cameron University.
Phillips, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist thanks to his family's liquor company, capitalized in 2018 on suburban opposition to President Donald Trump to defeat five-term incumbent GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen with 56 percent of the vote and flip what had been a reliable Republican seat for decades. The state's most affluent district had already been changing from red to purple. Hillary Clinton carried it by 9 percentage points in 2016. Paulsen tried hard to distance himself from Trump, skipping two Minnesota rallies with the president. But when Trump tweeted his "Strong Endorsement" of Paulsen, Phillips said it showed that Paulsen was a phony moderate.
Once he got to Washington, Phillips joined the bipartisan Problem Solvers caucus. He traveled twice to the U.S.-Mexico border to see facilities and conditions for migrants and search for solutions that lawmakers from both parties could support. He sided against some fellow Democrats, including Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, in pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to drop liberal demands and approve a more modest Senate version of a border aid bill this month. He's also been criticized from the left for opposing Trump's impeachment.
Phillips raised nearly $375,000 in the first half of 2019 and had just over $174,000 in cash left on hand, with debts of nearly $306,000, mostly to himself.