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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
Minnesota Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles used his subpoena power for the first time in his 35 year career after the state Department of Public Safety

Minn. legislative auditor subpoenas Public Safety over mishandled data

Jim Nobles took the action after public safety officials didn't turn over information on mishandled data.
A driver uses his cellphone while driving.

State lawmakers renew push to cut down on distracted driving

Bipartisan bills boost penalties for texting and restrict drivers to hands-free devices.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said he wants to be a “broker between the House, governor and Republican leadership.”

Tom Bakk, Minnesota Senate minority leader, is making sure he keeps his seat at the table

The Cook Democrat was his usual self after the Senate's first floor session last week.
Former State Rep. Tom Rukavina joked with friends and supporters in the Sawmill Saloon in Virginia, Minn., in 2014.

Former Rep. Rukavina, who served Iron Range for more than quarter century, dead at 68

As a legislator and St. Louis County commissioner, he served with pride, humor.
Gov.-elect Tim Walz and Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan last month at the State Capitol.

Meet the faces of Gov.-elect Tim Walz's administration

Walz filled out most of his Cabinet after an exhaustive process that included more than 500 applicants.
Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan is seeking another term and says the party can gain ground in 2020.

History suggests Minnesota Republicans can't count on an easy bounce back

History suggests presidential elections are both better for Minnesota Democrats and far less volatile than midterms.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan.

Jennifer Carnahan announces run for GOP party chair reelection

Under Carnahan, the GOP lost every statewide race but fought to a draw in congressional races in Minnesota.
Gov.-elect Tim Walz speaks with state Sen. Tony Lourey after he announced Lourey will be commissioner of the Department of Human Services, Thursday, J

Walz names seven new commissioners, including human services, DNR

State Sen. Tony Lourey will take over Human Services; Sarah Strommen is the first woman appointed to lead the DNR.
After her big midterm win, Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is said to be pondering a run for the presidency.

Key questions for Minnesota politics in 2019

Minnesotans entrusted a new crop of elected officials with big jobs in the November election. The next year will be a hugely important proving ground,…
Governor Mark Dayton is "the most consequential governor in recent history,” said DFL politico Wy Spano.

The Dayton difference: Governor's eight-year tenure has reshaped state

A mix of good economic fortunes, shrewd political skill and the missteps of his opponents has allowed Dayton to make his mark.
Gov.-elect Tim Walz is mostly unknown in Twin Cities political circles, which means he’s likely bringing new faces to the Capitol.

Who is on the inside of the new Walz administration

We're in the middle of a rapid change in the state's politics, especially as Gov. Mark Dayton passes the baton to Gov.-elect Tim Walz. It's…
Credit: Jon Bream Garth Brook in the final night of his 11-show run at the Target Center.

Garth Brooks adds second U.S. Bank Stadium show at Gov. Mark Dayton's urging

After first show sells out, star responds to plea.
Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan said she and Gov.-elect Tim Walz showed up for Indian voters — both before and after winning.

Minnesota election saw surge in American Indian voters, candidates

If not for the American Indian population, which comprises 13 percent of Bemidji, John Persell probably would not have won his Minnesota House seat. Persell,…
Representative Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa on the House floor.

Four House Republicans break away from their own caucus to form a new one

Splinter group shakes up GOP's dynamics at Capitol before session gets started.
Three female legislators and one candidate for the legislature, who have been outspoken against sexual harassment at the legislature spoke at the prot

One in five Minnesota House members, staff have been harassed or witnessed it

Survey of Minnesota House members and staff was conducted in response to the 2017 scandal that cost two lawmakers their seats.
Gov,-elect Tim Walz and former Gov. Jesse Ventura left a meeting inside the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul in November, one which included talk o

Marijuana legalization seems headed to Minn., but it's unclear when

Legalizing marijuana is looming as a next big political showdown at the Minnesota State Capitol.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen hugged his wife, Kelly, during his concession speech last month. His decision to run negative ads damaged his Mr. Nice Guy bran

Negative ads work, but they can backfire

It’s easy to be cynical about politics and especially about negative ads. Minnesotans were bombarded with tens of millions of dollars worth of political ads…
Labor leaders said they expect Gov.-elect Tim Walz to be a strong advocate, especially to workers in the building trades.

Labor ascendant at the Capitol

Fortunes have changed with the Democrats' sweeping electoral gains, which came with an assist in dollars and volunteers from labor.
Dean Phillips, left, and Angie Craig flipped suburban House seats, but Craig faced a more closely divided district.

Narrow loss in suburban Second District shows GOP's national headwinds

Exit polling in the Second District by St. Olaf political scientist Christopher Chapp and his students illustrates Republicans' 2018 problems.
Rep. Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, shown in 2017, is the new speaker of the Minnesota House.

Minnesota House Democrats announce new committees and their leaders

It's a first step in setting the party's agenda in the session that starts in January.
DFL gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz was congratulated by supporters as he was led through the kitchen to give a victory speech after his win. ] ANTHO

Walz is 'done with the drama,' brings his vast agenda to Capitol

Gov.-elect Tim Walz's success hinges on whether the vigorous approach and penchant for pragmatism he brought to the campaign trail can win over the Republican lawmakers whose votes he needs.
Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan, Gov.-elect Tim Walz, and his wife, Gwen, arrived at the State Capitol Thursday morning.

Gov.-elect Tim Walz promises everyone a 'seat at the table'

The Walzs, who have a 17-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, said they are considering moving into the governor's residence in St. Paul but are unsure of the timing.
DFL State Party Chairperson Ken Martin addressed DFL supporters.

DFL Party's longest-serving chairman looks to extend his tenure

Ken Martin has been the chairman since 2011.
Governor-elect Tim Walz embraced running mate, Lt. Governor-elect Peggy Flanagan, as they took the stage for their acceptance speech Tuesday night at

Walz wins Minnesota governor's race, extending DFL control

The victory gives Democrats four more years in the governor's office following two terms by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Her support for Trump motivated Jolynn Good to engage in politics. She volunteers for the GOP, sometimes with daughter Emmalynn, 2.

For GOP, midterm success means reactivating 2016 voters

Midterm victories could turn on reactivating passions that drove president's win in 2016.
Voter turnout on Tuesday will determine key races in the Twin Cities suburbs and how far to the right rural districts will swing.

Minnesota voters will send a message Tuesday, but what?

Turnout will be the key factor in so many ways on Election Day.
DFLer Tim Walz, left, and Republican Jeff Johnson are competing in Minnesota's governor's race.

Differences dominate final debate between Jeff Johnson, Tim Walz

In days, Minnesotans will choose one of the two to replace DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who is retiring after two terms.
PolyMet Mining Corp. proposes to use the old LTV taconite facility to process copper-nickel ore.

PolyMet copper-nickel mine gets green light from DNR

A long, contentious regulatory review ends with permits for the huge copper-nickel mine.
Candidates for Minnesota governor Tim Walz, left, and Jeff Johnson

Where Tim Walz and Jeff Johnson stand on abortion, guns and immigration

Issues like taxes, health care, education and roads are at the top of the to-do list for Minnesota’s next governor. But whoever wins the race…
GOP candidate for CD8 in the U.S. House, Pete Stauber spoke in Duluth in June 2018.

County e-mails from Stauber show political maneuvering

Pete Stauber once used his St. Louis County e-mail to seek damaging information about Rep. Rick Nolan's voting history and forwarded damaging information about another potential opponent to a GOP operative in Washington, according to e-mails released by the county.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz (left) and GOP candidate Jeff Johnson

Walz has big cash advantage over Johnson in closing days

Campaign 2018: Business groups focus resources on retaining GOP control of Legislature.
Minnesota gubernatorial candidates Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz debated in Willmar in October.

Expensive TV time a challenge for candidates

Blame the outside money flowing in for the four competitive House districts, all of which require TV ads in the expensive metro Twin Cities market.
Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman who survived a shooting in 2011, and her husband Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut, spoke during a round table

Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly stump for gun control, Democrats in Minneapolis

Democratic politicians got some help in the closing days of the campaign from national gun control advocates.
Republican candidate for CD8 U.S. House of Representatives Pete Stauber spoke in Duluth in June. ] GLEN STUBBE • glen.stubbe@startribune.com

Minnesota Democrats sue St. Louis County to get Pete Stauber e-mails

GOP candidate is in a tight U.S. House race with Joe Radinovich.
Tim Walz, the Democratic candidate for governor of Minnesota, at a debate in Willmar in October.

Tim Walz reaffirms support for $15-an-hour minimum wage for Minnesota

DFL candidate for governor supports minimum wage increases by cities, while GOP opponent Jeff Johnson calls local wage floors a burden on business.
Republican Jeff Johnson, left, and DFLer Tim Walz faced off earlier this month in a “Greater Minnesota Debate” in Willmar, Minn.

Jeff Johnson, Tim Walz both back northern Minn. pipeline project

Both major-party gubernatorial hopefuls say they support Enbridge, but politics could prove dicey.
House Speaker Paul Ryan met with Erik Paulsen at his office in Plymouth.

National political stars descend on closely fought Minnesota

Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio among GOP stars visiting to boost House candidates.
Minnesota gubernatorial candidates Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz debated in Willmar in October.

Walz, Johnson tax returns show similar financial shape

Although the Johnson and Walz households both earn incomes higher than average, the two families are mostly wage earners, and neither uses unusual maneuvers to avoid paying taxes.
Attorney general candidates: Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (left) and Republican Doug Wardlow

Candidates for Minn. attorney general clash over role of job

Democrat Keith Ellison, Republican Doug Wardlow unleash vitriol as other candidates debate health care, taxes.
Candidates for Minnesota governor Tim Walz, left, and Jeff Johnson have sketched out starkly different visions for the future of state government.

Governor's race poll: Walz holds narrow lead over Johnson

With just over two weeks until Election Day, governor's race has tightened, with sharp divides across gender and age.
Republican Pete Stauber leads over Joe Radinovich, right, in what’s been a reliably Democratic congressional district for decades.

Recent poll, fund-raising retreat show shift in 8th District race

Recent public polling by NBC News and the Star Tribune/MPR News suggests Democrats are going into the stretch run of the election season in relatively…
Republican candidate U.S. House Pete Stauber spoke in Duluth in June.

St. Louis County won't release Pete Stauber emails despite recommendation by state

Against a state agency’s recommendation, St. Louis County again refused on Wednesday to release e-mails sought by the Star Tribune between Pete Stauber, a St.…
Minnesota gubernatorial candidates Republican Jeff Johnson, left, shook hands with with DFLer Tim Walz after the "Greater Minnesota Debate" in Willmar

Jeff Johnson, Tim Walz focus on greater Minnesota in debate

The candidates for Minnesota governor sparred over taxes, ag and health care as each tried to prove he would be a champion of areas felt ignored.
Republican candidate for U.S. House Pete Stauber spoke in Duluth in June.

Advisory opinion: St. Louis County should hand over Pete Stauber emails

The county had confirmed the existence of the e-mails, sent to and from Stauber's county e-mail address, but declined to provide the e-mails.
Tim Walz was narrowly re-elected to his First Congressional District seat in 2016 even as President Trump won the district by more than 15 points.

Tim Walz's campaign for Minn. governor aims to bridge divide

Democrat Tim Walz says his experience crossing cultural and political fault lines positions him to rise above the partisanship that has stunted progress at the State Capitol.
If U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar scores a big victory in November, the speculation about her future will begin immediately.

Meeting with local CEOs shows why Sen. Amy Klobuchar is on a roll

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had lunch with about 30 CEOs of the largest Minnesota companies last week. According to an executive who was there but…
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen listens to DFL candidate Dean Phillips at their debate at the UBS Forum at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul on Friday, Oct. 5,

TV ads draw fire in hard-fought Twin Cities congressional races

Accuracy of allegations called into question.
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen listens to DFL candidate Dean Phillips at their debate at the UBS Forum at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul on Friday, Oct. 5,

Lawyer in Allina sexual harassment case blasts Erik Paulsen campaign ad

The new TV ad from GOP's Paulsen hits DFL challenger Dean Phillips over harassment lawsuit, but lawyer for claimants says Phillips had 'no involvement.'
Gov. Mark Dayton.

Gov. Mark Dayton to undergo third back surgery

Dayton heading to Mayo Clinic for another spinal procedure, similar to two previous surgeries meant to decrease leg pain and improve balance.
Republican Jeff Johnson, left, and DFLer Tim Walz faced off Tuesday night in a “Greater Minnesota Debate” in Willmar, Minn.

Health care becomes flashpoint in Minnesota governor's race

With Affordable Care Act still jarring U.S. politics, access to health care and how to pay for it a major issue dividing Tim Walz, Jeff Johnson.
Democrats’ pushback on confirming Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has energized Republicans.

GOP likes its chances after Brett Kavanaugh fight

Democratic pushback on Kavanaugh seems to have revved up GOP enthusiasm, which had been flagging.
People in Minnesota are focused on what candidates are saying about health care, according to a check of Google Trends.

Minnesota voters training their focus on health care

It's not even close, according to Google Trends.
Tim Walz, right, and Jeff Johnson debated at the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 19.

Johnson, Walz each have $1M for stretch run in governor race

Jeff Johnson, the surprise winner of the Republican primary against former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has seen a surge in fundraising since late July.
As a candidate for governor, Jeff Johnson is promising to slash taxes and spending.

Jeff Johnson promises tax cuts, but that means spending cuts, too

The Republican candidate for Minnesota governor wants broad relief, but schools, social programs would likely take hit.
President Donald Trump’s approval rating dropped to 39 percent in the most recent Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll.

Tough news for GOP in Minnesota Poll

Because politics has become so nationalized, an unpopular president portends bad things for his party.
Minnesota Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, is pictured on the House floor in a January 2017 file photo.

State Rep. Jim Knoblach ends re-election bid after allegations by daughter

In a statement, the St. Cloud Republican denied the allegations but said he needs to work toward healing his family.
Candidates for governor Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz shook hands at the start of their debate at the Twin West Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Septembe

Johnson, Walz debate how to fix state's shortage of workers

DFL, GOP candidates for governor agree on need to address workforce shortage, highlight differences at forum.
Sen. Scott Newman in 2012.

Minn. senator sparks online outrage with tweet about Kavanaugh accusations

Sen. Scott Newman, Republican from Hutchinson, writes off sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee.
Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Bu

Minnesota Poll: Evenly split on Kavanaugh before accusation

Minnesotans are evenly split on the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh in a new Star Tribune-MPR News Minnesota Poll taken before an allegation of sexual assault against him surfaced.
Candidates for Minnesota governor Tim Walz, left, and Jeff Johnson have sketched out starkly different visions for the future of state government.

Minnesota Poll: Tim Walz leads Jeff Johnson

DFLer Tim Walz holds a 9-point advantage over Republican Jeff Johnson in the race for governor with less than two months to the election. The poll finds about one in six voters still undecided in the race.
The state’s carpenter’s union, and other unions, are doling out endorsements in 2018 to a range of political candidates.

Some Minnesota labor groups see upside in backing Republicans

  Recent union endorsements provide clues about the direction of both organized labor and the two parties. The carpenters and their 11,000 Minnesota members endorsed…
More Minnesotans may be reaching for the mute button as election season enters its full stride, bombarding everyone with ads.

Swarm of political ads arrives in Minn., reflecting state's battleground status

Minnesota's airwaves will be increasingly filled with political appeals and attacks.
Gubernatorial candidates Jeff Johnson, left, and Tim Walz seen at the Minnesota State Fair.

Ad campaign thrusts health care into governor's race

The GOP gubernatorial candidate fired back, calling the ads "blatant lies."
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and state Sen. Karin Housley will square off in Minnesota’s first all-female U.S. Senate contest

Will D.C. Republicans come to Karin Housley's aid?

Housley remains unknown to many Minnesotans and will have to distinguish herself from generic Republicans.
FILE - In this June 20, 2018 file photo, Pete Stauber, a Republican congressional candidate running in a traditionally Democratic district, speaks dur

Records show Pete Stauber communicated with key GOP group on county e-mail

The Stauber campaign declined to make him available or provide access to the e-mails, which appear to violate a St. Louis County policy.
DFL candidate for governor Tim Walz talked with potential voters at the Minnesota State Fair about his ambitious agenda.

On the campaign trail, Walz makes big but expensive promises

Tim Walz backs tuition-free college plan, public health insurance and rural broadband access. Can he deliver?
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who talked with State Fair visitors, has flatly denied charges of domestic abuse raised by an ex-girlfriend.

Can Republicans make U.S. Rep Keith Ellison an albatross?

Republicans hope that domestic abuse allegations against U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who is running for Minnesota attorney general, will bring down the rest of his…
Being up for anything at the Minnesota State Fair is pretty much job No. 1 in running for governor. Tim Walz, left, and Jeff Johnson are game.

Campaign for governor turns folksy and fun at the State Fair

Whole-hog participation is unwritten prerequisite for statewide elected office.
State Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake

Minnesota state Sen. Michelle Benson's husband files for bankruptcy

Family business had been source of pride for GOP's Benson; now it may force her to step back.
It’s hard to say whether voters will express displeasure with Donald Trump by voting against Republican candidates.

Will Trump's troubles matter in Minnesota legislative races?

But if 2016 is a guide, running against Trump also has risks.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and state Sen. Karin Housley are battling for a Senate seat in November.

Mollie Tibbetts murder case in Iowa gets pulled into Minn. Senate race

Dueling statements from Karin Housley and Tina Smith highlight the power of immigration as a campaign issue this year.
Candidates for governor Tim Walz, left, and Jeff Johnson had their first debate at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa early Friday.

In Minnesota governor's race, a regional reversal

Historic voting dynamic is upended with an outstate DFLer, metro Republican.
DFL candidate for governor Tim Walz held a news conference with his running mate Peggy Flanagan in the State Office Building on Wednesday.

Clashing views taking center stage in Minn. governor's race

Tim Walz and Jeff Johnson offered very different visions for leading the state a day after their primary victories.
DFLer Tim Walz and Republican Jeff Johnson won their respective Minnesota gubernatorial primary races.

Tim Walz, Jeff Johnson to face off in Minnesota governor race

Jeff Johnson shocked the Minnesota political world when he built an insurmountable lead over former Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Meanwhile, Tim Walz defeated Erin Murphy and Lori Swanson on the DFL side.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison

U.S. Rep. Ellison denies allegation of domestic violence

The alleged incident between Keith Ellison and Karen Monahan came to light Saturday night after her son posted about it on Facebook. Ellison responded Sunday in a statement.
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