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J. Patrick Coolican

Reporter | Politics and state government
Phone: 651-925-5042
Location: St. Paul Capitol bureau
Other languages: None

J. Patrick Coolican is a Star Tribune political reporter who began his career by starting a website and following the 2000 presidential campaign. He's been a journalist in seven different states, and in 2013-14 was a Knight Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Coolican is married to Star Tribune visual journalist Leila Navidi, and they have a son named Liam. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he studied philosophy and literature. He has been to nearly 50 Phish concerts, and welcomes your critical disapproval.
Recent content from J. Patrick Coolican
Jodi Harpstead, who will lead the Department of Human Services, is one of several DFL leaders with a corporate background.

DFL politics shaped by Minnesota's Fortune 500 culture

The role of the big corporate sector in DFL politics — and vice versa — is an interesting phenomenon of both political and business life here.
Attorney General Keith Ellison

Attorney General Keith Ellison's office sued over Bloomberg-related hiring

Ellison says the case is without merit
Sen. Michelle Benson asks DHS acting commissioner Pam Wheelock about the resignation of the former DHS commissioner during a Senate hearing about rece

State senators demand answers after weeks of problems at DHS

Former medical director said the agency was making too many decisions without doctor input.
Jodi Harpstead spoke at a press conference at the State Capitol after being announced as the new Department of Human Services commissioner by Gov. Tim

Walz names Lutheran Social Service president to head DHS

Monday's announcement ends a period of turmoil in the top ranks of the agency, which serves more than 1 million Minnesotans with the help of roughly 7,300 workers.
Joseph Lawrence applauded during graduation ceremonies at Avivo on Aug. 1 in Minneapolis. The nonprofit received just shy of $500,000 from the Legisla

'They seem like no-bid contracts': DFLers expose policy rift over state job-training funds

Direct funding of nonprofits calls DEED's opportunity-gap results into question.
State Republicans see this election cycle as another opportunity to take out U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in the Seventh District.

Republicans again hopeful in the Seventh, but Collin Peterson won't be easy to vanquish

The trend line doesn't look good for the sometimes cantankerous but often amusing chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
Gov. Tim Walz and Jamie Edwards.

Walz's inaugural committee took in big money from corporations, unions

More than $700,000 poured in from unions and corporate donors.
Chaska Republican Scott Jensen, left, seen with Sen. Melisa Franzen, D-Edina, is leaving the Legislature after just one term.

Burnout threatens the quality of politics nationally and in Minnesota

It's not clear what the solution is.
Minnesota State Rep. Nick Zerwas and other Minnesota House Republicans announce a proposal at the state Capitol on Monday, March 25, 2019, that will c

New inspector general at DHS named amid fraud probe

Interim manager Bob Jacobson has a law enforcement background.
Progressives want senators — presumably including majority whip Ann Rest, shown — to be bold, Kenza Hadj-Moussa said.

Minnesota progressives getting impatient, might challenge incumbents

Kenza Hadj-Moussa, a spokeswoman for the progressive group TakeAction Minnesota, told me last week that no decisions have been made about recruiting challengers to take…
Sarah Walker, then deputy Corrections Department commissioner, at a February rally at the State Capitol.

Complaints: Minn. corrections official lobbied on state time

Sarah Walker, who stepped down last week, vehemently denies claims that she lobbied for husband's nonprofit while serving as deputy corrections commissioner.
Republican lawmakers ramped up the pressure on DFL Gov. Tim Walz over the shakeup at the Department of Human Services.

GOP lawmakers demand answers on shake-up at Minnesota Department of Human Services

Republican lawmakers put pressure on Walz administration for answers about what happened at the massive social services agency.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, is submitting a formal request for an investigation of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to the U.S. House Ethics Committee.

Republican legislator continues battle with Rep. Ilhan Omar

Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa launched a website focused on Rep. Ilhan Omar and also submitted a formal request for an investigation to the U.S. House Ethics Committee.
In this Dec. 28, 2017, file photo, Al Franken speaks about his accomplishments as his eight years in the Senate came to an end.

Al Franken tells New Yorker he regrets resigning: 'Absolutely.'

Seven current and former Democratic senators told the New Yorker that they regret calling for Franken's resignation and not giving him a chance for "due process."
Gov. Walz’s longtime aide and chief of staff Chris Schmitter got a taste of managing people — and crises — in recent weeks.

For Gov. Tim Walz's chief of staff, a crash course in crisis management

The headline of our daily e-mail politics newsletter asked a rhetorical question last week. Enjoying your new job, Chris Schmitter? we asked. Schmitter is the…
Pam Wheelock, the newly appointed commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, brings experience from high-profile public roles in the

In Pam Wheelock, Minnesota Dept. of Human Services gets a seasoned leader

Acting commissioner is brought on to calm an agency facing leadership tumult.
Deputy Corrections Department Commissioner Sarah Walker, pictured at a rally in February, has resigned.

Top deputy at state Corrections Dept. resigns amid probe

A spokeswoman said the department has received complaints about Sarah Walker, but "the investigation has not been completed."
Claire Wilson, left, and Charles Johnson.

Two Minn. DHS deputies return after Lourey, chief of staff resign

Claire Wilson and Charles Johnson rescinded their resignations.
Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey resigned from his post Monday after just six months on the job.

Minnesota DHS head Lourey resigns abruptly in shake-up

State's Human Services head quits after 2 top deputies resigned.
A recent Washington Post profile of Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar took aim at the accuracy of some of her comments — and the irony that the America

Takeaways from the profile of Ilhan Omar by the Washington Post

  Some takeaways from a recent Washington Post profile of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar — and the aftermath: 1. As the old joke goes,…
Claire Wilson, left, and Charles Johnson.

Two top Minn. Dept. of Human Services officials leave posts

The abrupt departures of two veteran administrators set up an early test of the leadership of Commissioner Tony Lourey.
Jimmy Fallon visits with fans and does some taping for "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" at a Super Bowl pregame event Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018.

Minnesota Film Board defends $267K for Super Bowl 'Tonight Show' visit

Republicans scoffed at the spending, which is sure to set off a fresh round of debate about the use of state money for favored industries, especially in film and television.
A state probe of campaign finance violations showed that Rep. Ilhan Omar filed federal taxes in 2014 and 2015 with her current husband, Ahmed Hirsi, w

New documents revisit questions on Rep. Omar's marriage history

Although she has legally corrected the discrepancy, she has declined to say anything about how or why it happened.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has made gains that seem incremental but have significant long-term ramifications.

In his quiet way, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is scoring victories

He has scored policy wins that may seem only incremental but have significant long-term ramifications.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, right, spoke in the Senate Chamber on the first day of the legislative session in 2019.

Lopsided grants on Iron Range spark questions of favoritism

The program intended to foster economic growth on the Iron Range has given more money per capita in the past five years for projects in influential state Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk's district than any other — by about one-third, according to a review of public records.
Tim Walz

Walz will not release his daily calendar, despite promise to do so

Governor's office refuses to make schedule public.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, shown with Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, has high hopes for paid family leave next year.

It's time to stop underestimating House Speaker Melissa Hortman

Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman has been underestimated for the better part of two years. Even as Democrats grew excited about their overall prospects in…
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar delivered her victory speech on Election Night in 2018.

Rep. Ilhan Omar jointly filed tax returns prior to legal marriage

Questions about Omar's complicated marriage and immigration history resurfaced Thursday when a state campaign finance board revealed that she and Ahmed Hirsi filed joint tax returns in 2014 and 2015 — a period when she was legally married to another man.
Andrew Zimmern has been paid more than $57,000 to promote Minnesota as a tourism destination in the past year, according to a review of state records.

State has paid Zimmern $57,000 to promote Minnesota as a destination

Zimmern's contract, which ends this month, required two posts per month to reach his more than 1 million Twitter and other social media followers.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler supports universal child care but acknowledges it would not be without costs.

Child care will be a hot political issue for the next decade or more

Ask anyone you know with a child in day care what it costs. And then ask them what their mortgage is. You'll find day care is often more expensive.
Cynthia Bauerly, Gov. Tim Walz’s revenue commissioner, said of the tax bill: “The primary takeaway is that the tax bill focuses on lower- and midd

New Minnesota law should make filing taxes simpler, cheaper

In rare agreement, both Republicans, Democrats praised the new measure.
Gov. Tim Walz, center

Walz fights to a draw in budget battle, comes away with a win

People around the State Capitol, including Republicans who tried to thwart Gov. Tim Walz's election last year, credit him with an agile bit of statecraft, even if it took a special session to wrap up the budget. He fought to a draw and transformed the deal — and his first legislative session — into a victory.
Lawmakers returned to the State Capitol on Friday for a special session.

Legislature wraps up $48.3B budget; Walz expected to sign

The Legislature adjourned early Saturday after a 21-hour special session in which they labored through a series of bills to fund Minnesota schools, parks, prisons, public health care and other services for the next two years.
Former DFL operative Todd Rapp argues that President Trump is a “temporary force in an otherwise dynamic political era.”

DFL operative: Look for return to split-ticket voting after Trump

  Last week we made the case from a DFL operative that the annual tragicomedy of the legislative session has little bearing on the next…
Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt came onto the House floor Monday to talk with other Republican legislators and House Speaker Melissa Hortm

Legislature adjourns, but plans to come back Thursday

With time running out, legislative leaders tentatively planned a special session Thursday to hammer out final budget agreements through a series of conference committees or "working groups."
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka walked toward the Governor's office for budget negotiations early Sunday afternoon.

Budget tensions rise with fiery remarks by Walz, GOP senators

The contrasting scenes with Minnesota senators approving a stopgap bill and Gov. Tim Walz addressing teachers reflected the strains after a week of closed-door budget talks.
As national politics become all-consuming, people are paying less attention to local races. Above, voters in Sibley County in November.

What is the impact of the legislative session on 2020? Maybe nothing

"The politics of who wins legislative elections have never been more divorced from what actually happens in St. Paul," one DFL operative said.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Gov. Tim Walz head into another round of budget negotiations Wednesday morning.

'Shame on us' if we can't find way to work together, Gov. Walz says about another long day of budget talks

Closed-door negotiations continue, with less public finger-pointing.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, MMB Commissioner Myron Frans, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan headed into another round of budget n

Gov. Tim Walz vows to 'get results' amid long day of budget talks with GOP

Deadline looms on Monday.
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan returned to their offices after responding to the GOP budget offer Monday.

State budget dispute endgame: What are they fighting about?

Will Minnesota avert a state government shutdown? It's complicated. Here's a primer on the budget battle.
If there’s no budget agreement by May 20, the power falls to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to control the message to voters.

As deadline nears, who wins and who loses if Legislature can't finish on time?

Negotiations on a state budget are stalled, so what would a stalemate mean for both sides going forward?
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks with reporters at the State Capitol Monday during a break in talks with House Democratic and Senate Republican leaders

State of Minnesota pulls in nearly $500 million more than expected in April

New revenue figures immediately come into play during the budget negotiations.
Genna Gazelka believes the conversion therapy they received as a teen has had a lasting and negative impact on their life.

Legislators get emotional in debate over gay conversion ban

Minnesota Senate GOP leader Paul Gazelka, father of child with a dual gender identity, seeks to heal political and personal wounds. "I cry over this issue," he said, choking up during an interview
Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, wants to end the practice of balancing budgets using the health care access fund, in part by stanching the flow of m

State lawmakers on guard for budget tricks as deadline looms

As the budget marathon nears its end, all parties are on guard for the sort of accounting gimmickry that has often marked past spending battles at the Capitol.
Gov. Tim Walz installed Josh Syrjamaki, his former chief of staff, to a prominent role in the Department of Corrections.

Walz turns to trusted confidante to help make big changes in state prison system

It's not surprising that Gov. Tim Walz would put one of his closest advisers inside the Department of Corrections.
Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker spoke with DFL legislators Rep. Rep. Jim Davnie and Rep. Cheryl Youakim before she laid out a case for Gov.

Divided state Legislature faces $700M spending gap on schools

Two wildly divergent education spending proposals emerged from the DFL-led House and the Republican-controlled Senate — with scarcely two weeks left in the legislative session.

Landscapers, pest control firms lash out at Minnesota bill that lets 4 cities enforce pesticide rules

Pest control companies oppose the bill, saying it would create a "crazy-quilt" of regulation.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey offered some reflections Wednesday about the Mohamed Noor case, one day after the verdict.

Walz says his office will review BCA investigation of Damond shooting

Governor says he wants more information about claims that BCA fell short.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka listened as Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, spoke about the provisions in the HHS bill. She is the chief author

Budget fight erupts as 2% health care provider tax in Minn. is set to expire

Republicans say the tax drives up costs; Democrats say the poor would pay.
The bill would raise the state gas tax over four years and then increase with inflation after that. It also would increase the metro sales tax by a ha

House passes gas tax that Senate GOP vows 'we're not going to do'

It passed the House on a mostly party-line 74 to 58 vote. Senate Republicans have long vowed to fight the proposal, which would push the gas tax from 28.5 cents to 48.5 cents per gallon — a 70% increase.
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan mocked their campaign uniform of buffalo plaid flannel shirts Friday at MinnRoast.

A night of needed political humor

  The three modes of politics these days seem to be sanctimony, outrage and sanctimonious outrage — much of it delivered with all the dramatic…
Former DFL state Rep. Joe Radinovich resigned from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board on Thursday.

Walz reprimands IRRRB chief in wake of DFLer's resignation

Gov. Tim Walz said last week he will tighten hiring rules after reports that the IRRRB — long accused of DFL cronyism — passed over a qualified woman and deviated from normal procedures by publicly posting the position for just 24 hours, instead of the usual 21 days.
Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley listened as the House slogged through over a hundred amandments to the omnibus education bill on the Hou

Ritual of long hours, political divisions, take their toll at State Capitol

It's a marathon to get bills off the floors — and into talks.
Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Walz's tax plan hits lowest-income Minnesotans hardest

At the same time, low-income Minnesotans also would benefit most from the governor's spending proposals, which are funded by the tax increases.
Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley listened as the House slogged through more than 100 amendments to the omnibus education bill on the Hous

Minnesota House passes education budget increase, setting up clash with Senate

It passed a budget measure that looks little like the Senate proposal.
Chris Taylor was named chief inclusion officer for Minnesota's government by Gov. Tim Walz on Tues., April 23, 2019.

Walz names chief inclusion officer to diversify state workforce

The position, while not new, has been elevated to the level of assistant commissioner.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, alongside DFL Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, listened to pitches from startups at Natural Resources Research Institute

100 days in, Walz hits the road, hoping to break partisan gridlock

The campaign-style tour, during the Minnesota Legislature's weeklong recess, was designed to use Walz's retail politicking chops and extroverted persona.
Committee chair Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka.

Could the legislative session end with GOP and DFL senators joining hands?

Coming out of the Easter/Passover break, with a mere five weeks to the finish, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has a difficult path forward.
Joe Radinovich

IRRRB accused of cronyism in hiring DFL operative

The standard hiring process was circumvented in awarding a civil service job that pays a six-figure salary to a prominent Iron Range Democrat, according to a newspaper report.
Tarek Tomes is the incoming commissioner of Minnesota IT services (MNIT) and the state’s chief information officer.

Walz appoints Tarek Tomes commissioner of state IT agency

Cybersecurity, aging software and hardware will be major challenges.
Democrats hope increasing the pressure will push wavering senators to cave on some of Gov. Tim Walz’s big agenda items.

Democrats launch ad campaign against GOP state senators, but will it work?

All are vulnerable Republicans in districts where a Democrat holds at least one of the House seats.
Iron Ranger and organizer of the Ranger Party, Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, sang “Mac the Knife” along with the band Cowboy Angel Blue from V

At Ranger party in St. Paul, Minn. lawmakers set aside differences, if only for a night

Lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists gather at Mancini's and go retro.
President Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, before boarding Marine One helicopter, Wednesday, A

Trump to visit Twin Cities area Monday, White House says

The focus of the visit reportedly is to celebrate President Trump's tax cut act on the day -- April 15 -- that income tax filings are due.
Minnesota House Tax Committee Chairman Paul Marquart, second from right, presents the House Democratic tax bill at a news conference at the state Capi

In tax plan, Minnesota DFL looks to corporations for more money, but gives breaks to most families

House plan looks to corporations for more school aid but sets up battle with GOP in Senate.
MNDOT data collection supervisor Mark Resemius and transportation specialist Dave Larson headed out with the road and pavement survey vehicle.

Gov. Walz's team points to state's future needs with gas-tax plans

The first-term Democrat cites inflation and road repairs. Republican leaders say the increase is not needed in a time of surplus.
Under the proposal from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and House Democrats, the state gas tax would increase from its current 28.5-cents-per-gallon to 48.5 c

Minn. House, Senate head in opposite directions on gas tax

The DFL-controlled House released a massive $7.28 billion, two-year transportation bill while the Republican-controlled Senate transportation committee rejected the gasoline tax hike as well as other tax increases.
Gov. Tim Walz looked to Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey during a news conference and health care roundtable earlier in March.

Health care battle looms large at Minnesota Capitol

Dueling proposals vie to reshape the market in the state, especially with the rising cost of prescription drugs.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken resigned in the face of sexual harassment allegations as the MeToo movement took off in late 2017.

18 months later, MeToo work carries on

The Legislature is an unusual work environment because no one is the boss of the lawmakers, other than the voters.
Gov. Tim Walz hopes to make Minnesota one of a handful of states with paid family leave.

Paid family leave in Minnesota is a coming flashpoint at Capitol

State Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, the GOP majority leader, called the cost projection "a real problem." He does not plan to hold hearings or a floor vote on the proposal this session.
Gov. Tim Walz revised his state budget plan in the face of a lower projected surplus, leaving $562 million on the table.

The political potency of a budget surplus

As the party that wants an activist government, Democrats have the most to gain from building up public trust that comes from surpluses.
The Minnesota State Capitol as seen from downtown St. Paul.

Number of top income tax filers continues to rise in Minnesota

New revenue data fuels the tax debate at Capitol.
Gov. Tim Walz, shown last month.

Gov. Tim Walz tells group he aims to end veteran homelessness by end of 2019

The governor welcomed hundreds of military veterans converging on the State Capitol to press for housing, disability services and upkeep of cemeteries.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, shown in St. Cloud last week.

Gov. Tim Walz takes his gas tax push on the road to Anoka

MnDOT has identified 500 road and bridge projects for development around the state — if lawmakers approve new revenue.
Big Pharma? Energy companies? Big Tobacco? Teachers unions? Who spent the most dollars on lobbying in Minnesota in 2018?

Who spent the most on lobbying in Minnesota last year?

Energy firms, business groups and unions were leaders in spending.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, above, is one of the Republicans that Gov. Tim Walz hopes to nudge toward bipartisanship.

Impasse at Minnesota Capitol on taxes, guns brings 2020 into focus

Republicans are using their three-seat majority in the state Senate to block the ambitious agenda of newly elected DFL Gov. Tim Walz.
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