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Who Is Biden Primary Challenger Dean Phillips? Millionaire Former Gelato Exec Turned Congressman Is President’s Most Prominent Opponent

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Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) will officially challenge President Joe Biden for the Democrats’ 2024 presidential nomination, Phillips told CBS News on Thursday after weeks of indications he would do so, becoming by far the most established challenger to Biden in the millionaire entrepreneur and self-identified centrist Phillips.

Key Facts

Biden has done “a spectacular job for our country” but the 2024 election is about the “future,” not the past, Phillips told CBS, alluding to long-stated concerns about the 80-year-old Biden’s age.

Phillips has long been outspoken about his concerns Biden’s electability, becoming the first congressional Democrat in July to suggest Biden shouldn’t run again, and pleading last month for Biden to “pass the torch.”

The 54-year-old Phillips, who stepped down from the House’s Democratic Policy and Communications committee three weeks ago due to his opposition to Biden’s reelection, would instantly become the most prominent Democrat running against Biden, joining a light crowd led by self-help author Marianne Williamson, media figurehead Cenk Uygur (Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said this week he’d run as an independent rather than Democrat).

Key Background

Before winning his House seat in 2018, Phillips had not held office, instead spending decades as a businessman largely in the alcoholic beverage industry as heir to his stepfather’s Phillips Distilling Company empire, including brands such as UV Vodka and Phillips peppermint schnapps (Phillips has served as president, CEO and chairman of the liquor giant but has not worked there in an official capacity since 2017, according to this LinkedIn profile). In addition to working at his family’s spirits business, Phillips also ran gelato company Talenti from 2012 to 2016, overseeing the sale of the frozen dessert firm to Unilever in 2014. Phillips confirmed told Politico earlier this month called the chairman of New Hampshire’s Democratic party as he “contemplate[s]” throwing his hat in the ring, and told Minnesota Public Radio he will officially decide on his candidacy over the “next couple of weeks,” vowing to “not sit on the sidelines and be quiet and stand down when I see the writing on the wall.”

Big Number

$77 million. That’s how much in assets Phillips disclosed amid his Congressional run in 2018, according to Fortune.


Many Americans agree with Phillips’ concerns about Biden’s age. More than three-fourths of respondents to an Associated Press poll in August said they thought he was too old to serve another four years as president, a term that would last past Biden’s 86th birthday.

Crucial Quote

Asked by Forbes in 2017 if he believes business executives make good politicians, Phillips responded: “Business people are rather humbled when they enter the legislative arena, because they are used to making decisions that are then implemented by people who report to them, but…I never make a decision without hearing two of the most polar opposite perspectives on any issue because I want to know how the extremes feel.”

Further Reading

MORE FROM FORBESHe Sold Americans On Small Luxuries Like Gelato. Can He Sell His Minnesota Nice Politics?

MORE FROM FORBESFirst Democrat In Congress Suggests Biden Shouldn't Run In 2024

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