WASHINGTON – Rep. Dean Phillips (a Democrat representing the western suburbs in the Twin Cities) is up for re-election based on optimism.
His campaign website states that “optimism means change” and he stated to the MinnPost that “optimism can be as contagious or deadly as fear.”
Phillips, 53 years old, believes that serving in Congress is about more than passing legislation. He said that it’s about character and values as well.
Phillips stated that Congress cannot legislate compassion, respect, or civility. But Congress can model such behavior.
Phillips and his GOP challenger Tom Weiler (20-year Navy veteran) share a focus on character. Weiler – who, like Phillip, has never held public office. Weiler stated that he was drawn to politics because of “a lack leadership in elected officials.” However, both candidates have different definitions of character.
The race for the 3 rd District congressional chair is actually a contest between two very distinct ideologies and personalities. The District voters are given the option of choosing from deep contrasts.
Phillip’s optimism is far from Weiler’s. Instead, Weiler (44), is focusing on the nation’s worsening issues and running on issues that are central to many Republican campaigns, crime and the economy. Republicans like Weiler, who are Democrats in control of both the White House as well as both the Congress chambers, blame Democrats for the nation’s problems and hope voter discontent will boost their party’s chances of winning the mid-term elections in November.
Weiler claimed that he was on an aircraft carrier in 2020, and was witness to “riots”, the social unrest caused by George Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis police. Weiler, who grew up in the 3 rd congressional districts, said that he was inspired to challenge Phillips by the demonstrations he saw onscreen.
So Weiler, a Navy veteran, returned home to Eden Prairie to run for Congress. He lives there with Cynthia, his five-year-old son, and six-year-old daughter.
The political environment in which the race will be held is quite chaotic. Analysts call the 3 rd District “safe Democratic,” while Phillips easily beat Republican rivals in his first and second races to represent the district. Democrats are now on the defensive during this campaign season.
Many Democrats in “safe” districts are concerned about President Biden’s popularity, economic concerns, and sharp rise of inflation. The 3 rd District, which was represented by Republicans for decades prior to Phillips’ election, has some recessive GOP DNA.
To win control of the chamber in November, Republicans will need to flip five House seats. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-6 th), the head of National Republican Congressional Committee said he is confident that Republicans will flip dozens.
Phillips boasts his moderate credentials. Phillips is a member the New Democrats, which are Democrats who are more conservative on economic issues but culturally liberal. Phillips also highlights his involvement in the Problem Solvers Caucus. This is a group of moderate Republicans and Democrats.
Phillips stated, “I represent a district which is moderate in its outlook.”
Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst at Inside Elections, believes Phillips’ race isn’t competitive.
Rubashkin stated that Joe Biden won the election by 20 percentage points. It is now out of reach for Republicans.
He also stated that Phillips was in his “most difficult” cycle of his political career, and that Weiler is “a credible profile.”
Rubashkin stated that Democrats have a problem with crime in these midterms.
He said, “And you don’t want to be the guy that didn’t take their race serious.”
‘Palpable’ voter concerns
Phillips, despite his optimism, is worried about the vicious GOP attacks on Democrats that accuse them of the rise in crime, inflation, and gas prices.
Recently, he participated in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol along with the most vulnerable House Democrats. The event was held to promote the Lower Food and Fuel Cost Act. This legislation would allow for the year-round sale E15, an ethanol mixture that lowers fuel costs by as much as 40 cents per gallon. currently, E15 can only be sold in the summer under the Clean Air Act. This is because it evaporates easily in hot weather, potentially worsening air quality. The bill’s Democratic sponsors stated that it would address supply chain issues, lower food costs, and strengthen the food supply chains.
Phillips made an invitation to Republican colleagues, who had complained about inflation on television every night and via social media, at that press conference without offering any solutions.
Phillips stated, “I haven’t seen a proposal form the other side…just a lot complaining.” Phillips stated, “If we don’t want to work together, my goodness! then we will fail.”
Phillips also sponsored a bill to increase federal funding for local police departments, and support other similar-minded measures.
Phillips admits that there are concerns about the voter, despite his optimism.
He said, “People are concerned; it’s palpable.”
Another door opens
Phillips stated that he quit his job as the gelato business’s owner to run for office the morning after Donald Trump’s 2016 election.
He said, “I saw my daughters’ terror and fear.” “I promised that I would do something.”
Phillips is the scion of a wealthy family, which made its fortunes in commerce and industry. Weiler, however, was a career Navy officer. He was a submariner, in line to command his ship when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Weiler stated that it was obvious that I had reached a plateau in the Navy. “But I still had the strong desire to serve my country. One door closes, another opens.”
Weiler was introduced to Congress to serve as the military liaison to Rep. Rob Witmann (R-Va.) is the leader of Congress’ Submarine Caucus.
Wittman’s congressional office was where Weiler worked. He found that “there’s a huge potential to do many good things for society,” as a congressman.
He’s now on the campaign trail and is praising Phillips for supporting the George Floyd Policing Act, legislation that was stalled in Congress that would implement police reforms. Also, he voted for COVID-19 relief bills Weiler claims has helped to boost inflation.
He also supports a conservative position on abortion. He says he is “pro-life from conception until a natural end.”
Weiler stated that he supports the Supreme Court’s decision to give individual states the option to rape, incest, or protect the life and health of a mother.
He said, “Those are part of what the give-and-take state legislature will look into.”
Weiler stated that he does not need a Trump endorsement.
He said, “It’s not something I care about one way or another.”
Weiler’s fundraising efforts for a first-time challenger have been successful. The Republican had raised over $191,000 by the end of the quarter, with $34,500 coming from a personal loan.
Phillips also reported that he raised nearly $1.4 million by the end of April.
Weiler stated that he is not concerned about the differences in fundraising. Emmer, however, said that he would appreciate any assistance from the National Republican Congressional Committee. The NRCC has put Weiler on their “On the Radar”, meaning that if Weiler does well in fundraising or makes the race more attractive, he would be eligible for donations, campaign help, and third-party TV ads from the NRCC.
Phillips, for his part is riding through the district in his “Government Repair Truck”, making gun violence and women’s reproductive rights his main campaign issues. In a positive, upbeat way.
He said, “Our campaign has an extremely unique ethos of joy & participation.”