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J. Patrick Coolican

Reporter | Politics and state government
Phone: 651-925-5042
Patrick Coolican began his career by starting a website and following the 2000 presidential campaign. Before coming to the Star Tribune, he was a longtime reporter in Las Vegas.
Recent content from J. Patrick Coolican
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.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson at the DFL gubernatorial debate held at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul on Friday.

Another ex-staffer for Lori Swanson says she did political work

The DFL gubernatorial candidate's campaign says the accusers are politically motivated.
With the primary just days away, the DFL race for governor is asking the question, can you win with name ID and TV ads?

DFL governor's race a test of campaign strategies

And we'll have some answers soon.
Lori Swanson was surrounded by reporters at the conclusion of a DFL gubernatorial debate held at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul on Friday.

Swanson hits back at ex-aide who says she politicized office

In a remarkable sequence of events days before the DFL primary for governor, Swanson released the criminal record of a critical former aide via emails from the attorney general's office. And the ex-staffer sought a restraining order against her.
DFL candidates for governor Erin Murphy, Tim Walz and Lori Swanson debated Friday at MPR studios in St. Paul.

DFL candidates debate for the last time before primary day

They spar over immigration, gun laws, negative ad.
DFL and GOP candidates shook hands at the end of the forum. All five leading candidates for governor - Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Jeff Johnson, and

Candidates for Minn. governor court rural votes at Farmfest

The forum was the only joint appearance for the five major hopefuls ahead of next week's primary election.
Students from around the Twin Cities Metro area rallied at the State Capitol to protest against gun violence in St. Paul in April.

Where candidates for Minnesota governor stand on guns

While Republicans and DFLers clearly disagree on guns, candidates in the same party don't see eye to eye either.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, left, and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson are battling for the Republican nomination for Minnesota governor.

In governor's race, GOP is pursuing a chance at full control

If Republicans hold the current legislative majorities, a conservative chief executive with an allied House and Senate could finally act on long-standing GOP vows to lower taxes and shrink government.
Seeking the DFL nomination for Minnesota governor, from left, are U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, Attorney General Lori Swanson and state Rep. Erin Murphy.

In governor's race, DFL Party is looking for the face of the future

The consequences for whoever wins Aug. 14 are huge: Whether Minnesota stays on a path set by eight years of a Democratic governor or joins neighboring states in choosing Republican rule.
Primary voters are hard to read ahead off Election Day on Aug. 14.

Primaries for Minnesota governor looking wide open

It's pointless to prognosticate because all scenarios seem possible.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty elbowed for advantage during Friday’s debate.

Pawlenty, Johnson get personal in combative radio debate

GOP's Johnson, Pawlenty argued over credibility as true conservatives.
Minnesota Republicans are bringing big data to voters this year. They hope to bring some voters to the polls and flip others.

Republicans' data machine sets up big changes

Now they have a good idea of how every voter is likely to behave — whether they are going to vote and for whom.
Gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy speaks to the convention after she secured the party endorsement during the DFL State Convention Saturday, June 2,

The case for and against Erin Murphy for governor

Looking at turnout, the candidate favored by the metro is going to be tough to beat.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and running mate Rick Nolan, shown earlier in the month. Swanson defended Nolan against claims that he didn't

Swanson defends Nolan's record in reply to #metoo allegations

In a late interview, the attorney general and one of the three DFL candidates for governor defends her running mate against the accusations that he didn't react strongly enough to harassment situation.
U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis repeatedly made disparaging comments about women during his time as a talk radio provocateur, according to a new report from CNN

Rep. Jason Lewis' 'slut' radio comments resurface in new report with audio

Comments he made on his provocative show are getting a wider airing.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty at a campaign appearance in Eagan in April.

Ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty focuses on immigration in bid for old job

The immigration debate has emerged as a polarizing cultural fracas in recent years, but Pawlenty said it's not a new issue for him.
Tim Pawlenty

What the early campaign ads tell us

The muddled DFL field for governor has created a challenge for Republican ad makers who would like to go on the attack now.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty released his first television ad in the GOP primary campaign.

Tim Pawlenty takes on GOP opponent Jeff Johnson in his first ad

The ad is a sharply negative attack on the Hennepin County commissioner, who is his Republican primary opponent for governor.
Attorney General Lori Swanson, who has statewide name recognition, is opening a lead in the DFL contest for governor.

Simple name recognition often the key to winning office in Minnesota

The August primary will be a big test of the salience of name ID.
Gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy and her newly announced running mate State Representative Erin Maye Quade spoke to journalists following the annou

Outstate DFLers sweat all-metro ticket of Murphy-Quade

Democrats worry that a growing metro bent could leave the DFL's rural constituencies increasingly endangered. Even if DFLers can continue to win statewide races with big vote margins in the Twin Cities, a loss of rural support makes it tough to restore legislative majorities.

Republican endorsed in state House race declared bankruptcy

The Republican-endorsed candidate for state House in a western Hennepin County district declared bankruptcy in 2010 with more than $1 million in liabilities and a…
Minnesotans can now buy lottery tickets with an app on their smartphones.

Minnesotans can now buy lottery tickets on smartphone but legal status debated

After a test run, the service offered by a New York-based company has started, but opponents are lining up.
DFL-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy with her running mate, state Rep. Erin Maye Quade.

DFLers concerned going into the fall; Trump visit odds and ends

Let us return to the fever that afflicted the DFL during the candidate filing period a few weeks ago, after which a DFL operative texted…
Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party, in 2017.

State GOP chair says she's faced racism, sexism from party leaders

In an interview with the Star Tribune, Jennifer Carnahan declined to identify who attacked her.
Caitlin Bell and her father, Ted Bell, founder and creator of Northstar Canoes, launched a canoe on Elk Lake in 2014. Northstar is one of nine plantif

BWCA-related businesses sue Interior over mining leases

A group of nine Minnesota businesses is suing the Trump administration, asserting irreparable harm from a U.S. Department of Interior decision to reinstate two long-expired…
Donald Trump is shown speaking at a Minnesota rally two days before the 2016 election. He is scheduled to make his first Minnesota appearance since th

Minnesota GOP, once resistant to Trump, rallies behind him

As the president visits Duluth on Wednesday, the state's Republicans are banking on him to boost their prospects in the November election.
In 2006, DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch, with running mate Judi Dutcher, lost to Republican Tim Pawlenty.

Minnesota politicians party like it's 2006

The paralels are many with the latest scramble, especially in DFL politics.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka spoke with Governor Mark Dayton as the governor left February's budget announcement.

Gov. Mark Dayton's rocky relationship with Legislature ends as it began

A major task for Minnesota's next governor will be to reset the relationship between the office of chief executive and the Legislature.
Maria Rosario and Bill Jungbauer, delegates from Inver Grove Heights wanted to take their photo by cutouts of President Trump and First Lady Melania T

Minnesota Republicans in Congress split over Trump, Mueller probe

Paulsen, Emmer, Lewis all have different response.
Lori Swanson announced her plans at a news conference Monday with running mate U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan at her side.

Swanson joins governor's race with Nolan as running mate

A Swanson-Nolan gubernatorial ticket adds more drama to a DFL primary that already promises to be hotly contested. With the endorsing conventions behind them, both parties are focused on the next chapter of the campaign.
Rep. Erin Murphy smiled on stage after it was announced that the other candidates for governor were dropping out of the endorsement process at the DFL

DFL endorses Murphy, GOP backs Johnson, but primaries are coming

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty did not compete with the other candidates who went to Duluth for the Republican convention. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz withdrew in Rochester in pursuit of party backing but will continue at the polls.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, top left, is expected to be challenged by GOP Sen. Karin Housley, top right, in November, while U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, bottom

GOP, DFL endorse U.S. Senate candidates for the fall election

At dueling political conventions the same weekend, Minnesota Republicans and DFLers gathered to endorse candidates for what promises to be the most significant election cycle in the state in decades.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Lt. Governor Michelle Fischbach as his running mate as he runs for a third term.

Gubernatorial candidate Pawlenty picks Lt. Gov. Fischbach as running mate

Ex-governor cites longtime legislator's experience.
State Rep. Erin Murphy’s campaign released a statement distinguishing her from her foes.

Faith group backs Rep. Erin Murphy as Tim Walz also scrambles for delegates

St. Paul state rep in tight battle with Walz, Otto for DFL backing in campaign to run for governor.
Participants at a town hall meeting Wednesday held up red “disagree cards” when U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen refused to say that health care was a right

Paulsen distances himself from Trump, others via town hall

The five-term Republican used a forum his critics sought for months to highlight areas where he disagrees with fellow Republicans.
Jeff Johnson, left, is the favorite to be endorsed for governor at the Republican convention, which former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, right, is skipping and t

State party conventions feature hotly contested race for governor

Across the state, activists and candidates gear up for the endorsing ritual.
Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the GOP tax bill at Bruce Vento Elementary in St. Paul to send a message on school aid.

How will legislative session's ugly end play in November?

Who will take the blame? How will voters react? Will it matter much?
State Sen. Michelle Fischbach is sworn in as lieutenant governor of Minnesota on Friday, May 25, 2018.

Fischbach resigns Senate seat, takes lieutenant governor oath

State Sen. Michelle Fischbach had been holding off from being officially sworn into the position amid a legal challenge from DFLers who maintained the state Constitution prohibited her from serving in both roles.
Upper Post barracks at Fort Snelling would be converted to affordable housing, with veterans given priority, under a plan that got a boost from the bo

Legislature pushes Fort Snelling affordable housing, at $600K per unit

Beat-the-clock bill has funds for pricey-to-build, affordable-to-rent units.
Republican legislative leaders House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka congratulated each other on their accomplishments. The

Spending, tax bills include Dayton wishes, GOP says

Dayton vowed to veto both a tax bill and a hefty catchall bill with nearly 1,000 pages of spending and policy changes; he has two weeks in which to decide for sure.
Vile, appalling disgusting, debacle, badly mismanaged, beholden to special interests, just some of the ways Gov. Mark Dayton described actions by by t

Dayton veto threat hangs over legislative session's final bills

Minnesota lawmakers adjourned late Sunday after finalizing a handful of tax and spending measures, but with little chance they'd have much to show for three months of work as Gov. Mark Dayton vowed to veto most of their major efforts.
With the clock ticking, it's unclear whether Republican leaders at the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton will reach accord on a handful of pr

Minnesota lawmakers, Gov. Dayton at odds as finish line nears

In session's second-to-last day, a late meeting between Dayton, lawmakers produced no agreement.
Tim Pawlenty sought the cover of legislative session’s final days to announce he was skipping the state convention.

Education Minnesota backs Walz as endorsements for governor begin

Lost amid the usual hubbub at the end of this year’s legislative session, the race for governor saw major developments two weeks before the state…
Few Minnesota lawmakers have more at stake in the legislative session’s final few days than state Sen. Karin Housley.

Housley stays in forefront of Capitol debates while trying for U.S. Senate seat

Few Minnesota lawmakers have more at stake in the legislative session's final few days than state Sen. Karin Housley, who is working to fatten a…
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton reflected on the final days of the 2018 legislative session in the library of the governor's residence.

Dayton promises veto of key tax bill, lashes out at Legislature

Gov. Mark Dayton is promising to veto a key tax bill that the Republican-controlled Senate passed narrowly Wednesday, ratcheting up tensions between the governor and the Legislature's GOP majorities.
Rep. Pat Garofalo,R-Farmington, who has been pushing for legal sports betting in Minnesota, holds news conference to respond to Supreme Court ruling t

High court clears way for sports betting, Minn. opposition forms

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling sets up the prospect of legal sports gambling, and a marked change in the sports entertainment experience. But Minnesotans may have to wait: State Rep. Pat Garofalo said there's not enough time in Minnesota's current legislative session — which ends in less than a week — to get a law passed.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton will be key players in what the final tax bill will look like.

For Minnesota businesses, much riding on state tax code rewrite

Businesses are watching last-minute deal making closely for winners, losers.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers share some agreement but are seeking leverage before adjourning.

Governor, lawmakers seek leverage as this year's legislative dance nears its end

It will make for a busy and chaotic week.
Minnesota Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt in a 2017 file photo.

Republicans at the Legislature suggest tapping lottery trust fund for public works

The GOP is turning to an obscure state entity that gets its money from the State Lottery to borrow as much as $100 million for public works projects.
The Minnesota State Capitol.

Bill to curb opioid epidemic passes state Senate

The bill, which is opposed by the powerful pharmaceutical industry and conservative activist groups, still faces a tough road in the Republican-controlled House.
Wild rice grows exclusively in some parts of the Great Lakes states, primarily Minnesota.

Dayton vetoes bill that would kill wild rice protections

He called it an extreme overreach by state lawmakers and a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
Several tax proposals are currently under consideration in St. Paul.

What you need to know about the Minnesota Legislature's tax bills

The Minnesota House and Senate, both controlled by Republicans, have each passed bills to lower taxes for most Minnesotans and bring the state’s tax…

Government spending on lobbying down, but still measured in millions

Local governments in Minnesota spent less money on lobbying in 2017 compared to the previous year, but still used $8.77 million trying to influence decisions…
In a bipartisan news conference, Gov. Mark Dayton announced the final new state guidelines and grants to fight opioid abuse. The announcement was made

Waves of lobbyists greet bipartisan effort at Minn. Capitol to tax opioids

More than three dozen lobbyists were deployed to kill penny-a-pill measure.
Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, listened Thursday as other senators challenged his omnibus tax bill on the Senate floor.

Minnesota Senate passes GOP tax plan to reduce lowest rate

Lawmakers from the Republican-controlled House and Senate now must compromise on their different plans and then win the approval of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
The Minnesota Senate chamber is shown in this 2017 file photo. On Tuesday, GOP senators released their tax cut proposal. GLEN STUBBE ï glen.stubbe@st

Minnesota Senate Republicans propose tax cuts for lowest state income bracket

$176 million would be used to reduce the state's lowest-tier income tax rate.
Republican Tax Chairman Rep. Gregory Davids threw his hands in the air as his bill passed 90-38.

House passes plan with lower taxes for many, higher for some

The Minnesota House passed a bill Monday that would lower the state's individual income tax rate for the first time since 2000 while updating the tax system.
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