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From the vodka and gelato business, to challenging Rep. Paulsen in 2018

He was CEO of Phillips Distilling, and helped build the Talenti gelato company.

The man who helped create a Minnesota-made vodka and built a leading gelato brand wants to unseat Rep. Erik Paulsen in Congress.

Dean Phillips, born in St. Paul and raised in Edina, announced Tuesday he's running for one of Minnesota's U.S. House seats in 2018. He'll go as a Democrat against the Republican Paulsen in the state's 3rd Congressional District (an area just west of the Twin Cities that sort of Pac-Mans around Minneapolis).

Paulsen easily beat his Democratic opponent in 2016 with 56.7 percent of the vote. He's held the seat since 2009, and is in his fifth term now. But as Roll Call points out, the voters in his district opted for Hillary Clinton by a 9-point margin, so it's seen as potentially vulnerable.

But let's get back to Phillips

Phillips served as CEO of Phillips Distillery Co. for a bit, a company started in 1912 by his great-great-grandfather. So it's a long-running family business. On his site Phillips lists Prairie Vodka as the brand creation he's most proud of.

Phillips was also one of the owners of Talenti, a gelato company that he says was the largest in the world.

He acknowledges he's been "fortunate" in life, and bills himself as a "fiscally responsible, socially inclusive" Democrat for the district. But he'll also be an "independent voice of reason," he says.

He emphasizes how important his civic engagement and philanthropy have been, saying he measures success "not by what I have collected or achieved," but "by how many people I’ve been able to help do so for themselves."

The Federal Elections Commission doesn't have his official filing on record as of Wednesday morning.

A couple other challengers

Paulsen has been defending himself against constituents upset with his vote in favor of the American Health Care Act – it's a vote he explained more in depth here.

Phillips isn't the only Democrat with an eye on the longtime congressman now.

Earlier this year, Brian Santa Maria filed to run as a Democrat, and on his campaign website takes direct aim at both President Donald Trump and Rep. Paulsen.

A third Democrat, Alicia Donahue, filed with the Federal Elections Commission on May 11, but doesn't appear to have a campaign website, or any online presence.

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