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Rep. Dean Phillips.
Rep. Dean Phillips.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images file

Rep. Dean Phillips faces primary challenger after calling for Biden opponent

Ron Harris, a Democratic National Committee member, announced Friday that he'll run for Phillips' Minnesota House seat.


Ron Harris, a Democratic National Committee member, announced Friday that he's mounting a challenge for Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips' seat in Minnesota, as Phillips has emerged a vocal critic of President Joe Biden's re-election campaign.

“I’m running for Congress in MN-03 to ensure that my community has strong, effective Democratic representation in Washington,” Harris announced in a press release kicking off his campaign.

His announcement comes as Phillips has called for Biden to face a 2024 primary challenger, noting the share of Americans who have concerns about whether Biden, 80, is up for the job. Phillips has not ruled out making that challenge himself.

Phillips, who has represented a slice of the Twin Cities suburbs since flipping the seat in 2018, stepped down from his House Democratic leadership role earlier this month. He said his "convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of my caucus, and I felt it appropriate to step aside from elected leadership to avoid unnecessary distractions during a critical time for our country."

Though he didn't reference it in his statement, many interpreted the move as the first step toward a presidential run.

The deadline to file paperwork to appear on New Hampshire's presidential primary ballot is later this month.

As recently as September, Phillips told Steve Schmidt on his podcast, “I haven’t ruled it out."

In his statement, Harris referenced Phillips' consideration of a possible White House bid as a reason to challenge him.

"As our congressman contemplates seeking higher office, I’m ready to step up to ensure our voices are heard, our community is represented, and our district gets the resources we need," Harris said.

Harris' campaign told NBC News he plans to run as a Biden defender, while Phillips continues to critique the president over his age.

"People want to turn the page," Phillips said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in August. "I think that's fair to say. As a Democrat, I adore Joe Biden. He saved this country. He can cement his legacy. My real call to action right now is not about me. The call to action is to ask the president to pass the torch."