Democrats appear to have advantage in wide-open 3rd District race

Republicans won congressional races in Minnesota’s 3rd District in 29 consecutive elections from 1960 through 2016. That winning streak came to a crashing halt in 2018 when Democrat Dean Phillips beat five-term incumbent Republican Erik Paulsen by 12 points. It has remained in Democratic hands during three straight elections since then by double-digit margins.

“The Third District is a relatively prosperous district made up of highly educated and predominantly white residents,” says Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier. “These residents nationally and in Minnesota have been trending in a Democratic direction.”

Phillips announced Friday he will not seek reelection in 2024 while he focuses on his presidential race. Schier says Democrats will likely have an advantage again in 2024 even without an incumbent, noting the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index now says Democrats have an 8-point advantage in the district.

“I think it’s wide open for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District,” Schier says. “A lot of Democrats will look at that as a very secure place to build a long career in Washington.”

So far two Democrats have announced plans to run, including state Sen. Kelly Morrison and DNC executive Ron Harris.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has considered running if Phillips did not seek reelection. So far he has not announced plans to run. Democratic state Rep. Zack Stevenson had considered a run but announced on social media earlier this month he will run for reelection to his House seat.

No well-known Republicans have yet announced plans to run, but that could change soon, according to Minnesota Republican Party Chair David Hann.

“There are several [potential candidates] who have spoken to me in the last few days but no one has made a public announcement yet,” Hann told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in a text message on Monday.

In an interview on Friday, Phillips said it’s time for a change in the 3rd District seat, just as in the presidency.

“It’s a time for change,” he said in a phone interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “And it’s the time to pass the torch to a new generation. And I’m doing that myself in the presidential race.”

Candidates have until early June to file for the congressional race, although most likely will do so much sooner. Phillips said he plans to be running for president through the filing deadline and wanted to announce his decision now to give other candidates a chance to run.