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Phillips liquor heir, Dear Abby’s grandson to run for Minnesota U.S. House seat

DEEPHAVEN, Minn. -- A Deephaven businessman, with a background that includes vodka, whisky, gelato and links to the “Dear Abby” advice column. launched his campaign Tuesday to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen of Edina.

Dean Phillips, who has never held public office but has contributed at least $170,000 to Democratic candidates and causes over the last decade, announced his Democratic bid in the 3rd Congressional District after several weeks of speculation.

“I am a fiscally responsible, socially inclusive and yes, fortunate, man who wishes to represent Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District and bring a strong, independent voice of reason,” Phillips says on his campaign website.

Phillips said he has long been engaged in politics but has been so “troubled” by recent events that he felt the need to offer himself as a candidate. “I don’t believe Erik Paulsen is Donald Trump,” he said, but Paulsen’s voting record has been “100 percent aligned” with the president.

Phillips previously led his family business, Phillips Distilling Co., serving as president and chief executive officer of the liquor company that makes several brands of vodka, rum and other spirits. He then joined business partners to build the gelato brand Talenti, which was sold in 2016. He now owns the downtown Minneapolis Penny’s Coffee shop, a business which he plans expand with additional locations in the next few months.

His campaign announcement noted that he is “the grandson of advice columnist and social activist, Abigail Van Buren (aka Dear Abby) and son and great-grandson, of Minnesota business philanthropic leaders, Eddie Phillips and Jay Phillips, respectively.”

He said during his campaign he would not accept money from political action committees or lobbyists and will fundraise from supporters.