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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
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke at the Edina Country Club on the Future of Work at a joint meeting of the Chambers of Commerce for Bloomington, Eden Pr

Ex-Gov. Pawlenty files with campaign board, moving closer to run

Former Republican governor expected to formally announce bid for third term in near future.
Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, entered the Minnesota House Chamber along with other senators to attend the governor's State of the State address On

At Minnesota Capitol, support for guns is deeply ingrained

The National Rifle Association has no full-time Minnesota lobbyist. Why? It doesn't need one.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke at the Edina Country Club on Friday. “We are warming up the engine,” he said.

Pawlenty isn't running for governor yet, but he's definitely ramping up

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is continuing to lay the groundwork for a bid for his old job, as evidenced by several developments last week. Pawlenty…
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke Friday at the Edina Country Club on the Future of Work at a joint meeting of the Chambers of Commerce for Bloomington,

In Edina, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty sounds like candidate

Ex-governor shows off his grasp of policy in possible prelude to decision to run.
Gov. Mark Dayton waved and smiled at his family in the gallery at the beginning of his State of the State speech on Wednesday night.

Dayton wraps up final State of State with a focus on finances

He also called for more state spending on education, public works infrastructure and school safety, saying he wants to leave the state in better financial condition than he found in 2011.
"I became a delegate almost out of spite," said Abdi Mohamed, who wants to be a Republican but is getting a message that he's not welcome.

Some in state GOP give Muslims a cold shoulder

Abdi Mohamed is a Republican Trump voter with a red “Make America Great Again” hat to prove it, and he is a practicing Muslim. Born…
Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, left, shook hands with South Dakota Sen. George McGovern as Vice President Hubert Humphrey, also a Minnesotan, looked

In pivotal 1968 race, two Minnesotans tussled to make history

Half a century ago, Lyndon Johnson had gone from “Uncle Corn Pone” — the derisive nickname given him by the Kennedys — to a record…
Joseph Rannazzisi will be at the Minnesota State Capitol on Wednesday and Thursday talking to lawmakers about the opioid problem.

DEA whistleblower will make case for Minnesota pill tax to curb opioids

One-time Drug Enforcement Agency official Joseph T. Rannazzisi helped uncover drug industry influence in Washington.
State Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, is optimistic about her gubernatorial chances despite a third-place caucus finish.

Each of the DFL candidates for Minnesota governor can make a case

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz bagged another endorsement last week, this one from carpenters, which continues a string of building-trades support that includes the International Union…
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, shown in 2016.

Rep. Erik Paulsen says gun control 'gaps' need to be addressed

Minnesota Republican says research into gun violence should proceed. One of his DFL foes, Dean Phillips, said it's too little, too late.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Mankato, talked with AFSCME delegates after a forum.

Rep. Walz, long supported by NRA, proposes assault weapons ban

He's slammed by DFLers for past support and by gun rights advocates for the shift.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, shown at an event in 2012.

Pawlenty finds 'A-list' support as he mulls return to Minn. politics

A group of about 100 of Minnesota's richest, most politically engaged Republicans filed into a common room last week. The host was former Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He was offering an opportunity to get in on his own potential comeback bid in a gubernatorial race shaping up as the most significant and wide open in years.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato won seven of eight congressional districts in the caucus straw poll for governor.

Tim Walz's advantage may be larger than it appeared on caucus night

From a delegate perspective his caucus support was wide as well as deep in some places.
FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2016, file photo, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison listens during a forum on the future of the Democratic Party in Denver. Ellison

Rep. Keith Ellison again faces questions about Farrakhan relationship

He says Nation of Islam leader's presence at 2013 dinner was incidental.
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2012, file photo, David Wellstone, son of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, speaks at the Macalester College campus in St. Pa

Wellstone Action internal dispute divides DFL figures at key time

The removal of David and Mark Wellstone and the split come heading into an election year that many in the party view as the most consequential in years.
Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, closed his eyes as he said he and DFL Sen. Chris Eaton can’t get their loved ones back as he spoke about the “penny-a-

Dayton, bipartisan legislators propose new tax on opioids to address epidemic

The plan would raise about $20 million per year for prevention, emergency response, treatment, recovery and law enforcement.
State Representative Erin Murphy (DFL) ] GLEN STUBBE ï Friday, January 26, 2018 Minnesota candidates for governor gathere

A look at the major candidates for Minnesota governor

These are the major contenders vying for their parties' nominations for Minnesota governor in 2018.
Former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (DFL) Friday, January 26, 2018 Minnesota candidates for governor gathered for a forum sponsored by the Center for

Former St. Paul Mayor Coleman drops out of race for governor

The former St. Paul mayor finished poorly in a recent DFL caucus straw poll.
Tim Pawlenty, shown in 2012, last faced Minnesota voters in 2006, when he was narrowly re-elected.

Pawlenty offers a big name for Minnesota governor's race but big vulnerabilities, too

As former two-term governor of Minnesota actively eyes comeback bid, allies see much to like and adversaries see plenty to attack.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., at a recent gubernatorial candidates’ forum. He won a commanding straw poll victory.

Minnesota precinct caucus straw poll results deliver a few insights

There was a clarifying moment in the governor's race but also some caveats.
Stefan Peterson asked a DFL precinct caucus meeting at Eden Prairie High School for a show of hands Tuesday night on who would be willing to serve as

GOP's Jeff Johnson, DFL's Tim Walz get wins in caucus tests

Party activists weighed in for the first time on the governor's race in a busy year for state politics.
A screenshot of Dave Sina's post on Facebook.

Republicans mull resolutions that critics call anti-Muslim

A local GOP leader urged fellow Republicans to introduce a resolution at Tuesday precinct caucus meetings that would require attendees to "denounce sharia law, swear to support and defend the United States Constitution and prohibit the use of the Qur'an in the taking of this oath."
Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann 'wasn't hearing any call from God' for Senate run

Former Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann said on a radio program Saturday that she will not run for the Senate in 2018. Appearing on “Understanding…
GOP gubernatorial candidates Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens (center left) and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (center right) talked b

Minnesota caucuses are opening volley in high-stakes election year

Activists of both parties will gather to select party leaders, hash out platform planks and make choices in a nonbinding straw poll for governor.
Precinct caucuses this week will sharpen the Minnesota governor’s race, especially as Tim Pawlenty waits in the wings.

Governor's race takes shape, with Lori Swanson out and Tim Pawlenty maybe in

Last week was significant in the governor’s race, as we got real clarity on the makeup of the field and the relative strengths of the…
GOP gubernatorial candidates Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens (center left) and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (center right) talked b

In the money chase, DFL candidates for governor beating Republicans

Large imbalance in money raised last year has some in the GOP worried.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. On the left Former GOP State Chairman Keith Downey, on the right, is State Rep. Matt Dean.

Jeff Johnson clarifies comments on Muslims' caucus participation

Jeff Johnson, a leading Republican candidate for governor, was pressed in a podcast interview this week to defend GOP lawmakers who have warned of Muslim-Americans "infiltrating" the upcoming precinct caucuses.
Tracking fundraising in Minnesota's gubernatorial race

Tracking fundraising in Minnesota's gubernatorial race

As of the most recent filing, the DFL's gubernatorial candidates are out-raising the GOP.
The South Saint Paul Quick-Serv License Center in a photo from September 28, 2017. It was among the many state licensing offices affected by the troub

State says $43M more needed to fix troubled Minn. licensing upgrade

Dayton administration says another $43 million is needed to get the job done.
State GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said “there is no religious test” to be a Republican.

Legislator, local GOP official warn of Muslims 'infiltrating' caucuses

A local Republican Party official said he uncovered a plot to "mobilize Muslims to infiltrate our Republican caucuses on Feb. 6" -- drawing a swift rebuke from fellow Republicans.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

Attorney General Swanson running for re-election, not governor

The third term DFL attorney general had been considered a top contender for her party's nomination for governor, with a high profile job that made her well known to the state's voters.
This week’s release of gubernatorial campaign spending reports should shed some light on whom donors are favoring.

Minnesota governor's race: Ready, set, go

A big week is coming up in the governor's race, as campaigns will report what money they raised and spent in 2017.
GOP gubernatorial candidates Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens (center left) and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (center right) talked b

Minn. gubernatorial candidates address rural issues at suburban forum

GOP and DFL candidates pitched plans for greater Minnesota at a forum.
Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood

GOP Rep. Dean quits governor's race, endorses Jeff Johnson

The state legislator threw his support in the GOP gubernatorial race to Jeff Johnson, who was the party's nominee in 2014 and lost the election to Mark Dayton.
Gov. Mark Dayton spoke during a recent budget forecast.

Gov. Mark Dayton paid an internet broker $6,000 for a Super Bowl ticket

Dayton says he'll go despite 'less enthusiasm' for big game after Vikings loss.
Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne, currently director of the joint staff of the Minnesota National Guard, will become commissioner of Minnesota IT Services,

Gov. Mark Dayton appoints Brigadier Gen. Johanna Clyborne new chief information officer

Dayton looks to a military commander with significant leadership experience.
President Trump’s standing among Minnesota voters was stronger than elsewhere, according to a recent Minnesota Poll.

Star Tribune Minnesota Poll delivers promising results for Republicans

The Star Tribune's first election year poll is complete and, all things considered, it was a good series of results for Minnesota Republicans. President Donald…
The Minnesota State Capitol in the evening sun

Minnesota Poll: Walz, Johnson lead the field in governor's race

But many Minnesota voters remain undecided as the crowded race gets started.
A short fundraising window closes more each day that Attorney General Lori Swanson waits to enter the governor’s race.

Attorney General Lori Swanson continues to wait — at what cost?

For months observers have waited for her to announce a run for governor.
Minnesota legislators will have to decide how to respond to the new federal law changes, which will have an impact on the state tax system.

Minnesotans could face big state tax hikes after fed changes

Minnesota is one of a few states that base state taxes on an income figure plucked from the federal filing called "federal taxable income."
The new federal tax law creates preferential tax treatment for certain kinds of business income, reducing federal taxable income for these taxpayers.

High-stakes debate coming to Minnesota Legislature after federal tax changes

If lawmakers do nothing, a complex maze awaits both tax collectors and taxpayers.
Staying in the U.S. House offers Rep. Tom Emmer a chance for a committee chairmanship as many Republicans retire.

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer seems like a safe bet to stay put

A recent report in the Washington, D.C., publication Roll Call speculated about potential Republican candidates in the special Senate race to replace Al Franken and…
Minnesota Senate President Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, discussed her work presiding over the Senate -- a job she wants to continue along with h

Lt. Gov. Fischbach will decline pay, continue in Minn. Senate

By trying to remain in the Senate, Fischbach, a Republican, is helping her party maintain its narrow majority status.
Former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann spoke at a November 2016 rally for Donald Trump at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Bachmann says she's considering run this year for U.S. Senate

Former U.S. House member Michele Bachmann said on a religious TV program that she is considering running for the U.S. Senate seat Al Franken is vacating.
Outgoing U.S. Sen. Al Franken looked at his wife, Franni, at a gathering of supporters Thursday. He’ll step down Tuesday.

New year to bring more surprises in Minnesota politics

It was a wild year in Minnesota politics. We lost a U.S. senator in Al Franken, who resigned under the duress of sexual harassment allegations,…
The MNsure call center in St. Paul. The question of whether MNsure's call-center failure in 2016 could have been the result of a saboteur is not as ou

Was MNsure's help line hacked in 2016? That's still unsolved, for now

Since Gov. Dayton announced the IT division found that automated systems were flooding phone lines, Minnesotans have heard nothing more.
“We have enough lawyers and fancy people. … We need regular people who have dealt with real-life issues.”
Keith Franke, legislator from St. Paul

St. Paul Park Republican traveled an unusual path to politics

Keith Franke wears a tiny earring in his left ear, collects comic books and spent a decade riding his bike everywhere because he lost his…
In 2018, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty could challenge Tina Smith in the Senate — or try to return to a job he loved.

Which way will Tim Pawlenty go in 2018?

Anyone who thinks the former governor is a done deal for getting in the 2018 U.S. Senate race to take on Tina Smith is mistaken, a GOP source said.
In a photo she shared on Twitter, GOP Sen. Michelle Fischbach met Friday with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.

Swanson opinion adds to fray in battle over Minn. Senate control

Michelle Fischbach cannot serve in the Senate while also being lieutenant governor, the attorney general says. The Republican Fischbach says she's doing both.
State Sen, Karin Housley, chair of the Senate committee on aging and long-term care, said she is preparing a package of reforms to address widespread

Race for Sen. Franken's seat heats up even before he's gone

Tina Smith hasn't had a chance to take over Al Franken's Senate seat yet, but she already has a GOP challenger. State Sen. Karin Housley announced she's running.
Tina Smith

Tough work ahead for Tina Smith – on the Hill and at home

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith’s political connections and savvy quickly united Minnesota’s ideologically and geographically diverse DFL Party behind her as Al Franken’s replacement in the…
GOP needs to start recruiting for downballot races

GOP needs to start recruiting for downballot races

Julie Blaha, former math teacher and current secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, announced recently that she would run for state auditor. That makes three DFL candidates…
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate, where she will replace Sen. Al Franken.

Dayton picks Lt. Gov. Tina Smith for Franken's Senate seat

Sen. Al Franken, facing accusations of sexual harassment, said last week that he would resign "in the coming weeks." Smith would be up for election next November.
FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2016 file photo, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., listens during a forum on the future of the Democratic Party, in Denver. (AP

Rep. Keith Ellison won't run for U.S. Senate in 2018

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison will not run in Minnesota’s special U.S. Senate election in 2018, he said in a statement. Ellison, a Democrat, earlier had…
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith

Sources: Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to be named to replace Al Franken

Two high-level Democratic sources say the governor will appoint Smith as Minnesota's next U.S. senator, and that she will run for the seat in a 2018 special election.
The Minnesota State Capitol.

Changes to sexual harassment policy proposed in Minnesota House

The speedy investigative process, proposed by Republicans and DFLers, would allow confidentiality for accusers.
Sen. Al Franken’s decision to step down amid a growing sexual-harassment scandal has scrambled Minnesota’s 2018 election.

2018 race for Franken seat attracts interest, sets up shift

The senator's exit doubles the national stakes for the 2018 election in Minnesota.
Deputy Minority Leader Melissa Hortman has been targeted by an aggressive mailer outside her district.

GOP hits Hortman outside her district

The GOP-aligned Minnesota Jobs Coalition — House GOP chief of staff Ben Golnik’s old shop — sent out a nasty mailer on House DFL Minority…
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith with Gov. Mark Dayton at the Minnesota State Capitol in August.

Gov. Mark Dayton likely to tap Lt. Gov. Tina Smith as Franken replacement

Franken resignation, expected Thursday, would set off musical chairs in Minnesota politics, queue up epic election cycle in 2018.
FILE - In this July 12, 2017, file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. Two women

What you need to know about Al Franken and what comes next

It's Pearl Harbor day and now a day that will go down in infamy in Minnesota history, with Sen. Al Franken expected to resign this morning.
Politico reported that a former Democratic aide says Sen. Al Franken tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006.

Sen. Al Franken will announce plans on Senate floor at 10:45 a.m.

The Minnesota senator, who called the latest anonymous accusation "preposterous," is set to speak about his future. It comes after Democratic leaders united Wednesday to tell him it was time to go.
Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens

A woman running for governor might be just what Minnesota GOP needs

Mary Giuliani Stephens, the Republican mayor of Woodbury, announced last week at a well-attended kickoff that she’s running for governor. Despite a little understandable nervousness,…
Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens

Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens announces run for governor

A newcomer to state politics, Giuliani Stephens pitches experience as mayor of fast-growing suburb.
Sen. Dan Schoen will vacate his seat in the state Senate on Dec. 15.

Fierce race takes shape for open state Senate seat

GOP and DFL highly motivated to claim Sen. Dan Schoen's spot.
With the sudden resignations of state Sen. Dan Schoen and Rep. Tony Cornish, two special elections are now coming up.

Special elections, governor's race, Franken's big problem

Gov. Mark Dayton is indicating he will call two special elections before the Legislature convenes Feb. 20.
A protest against sexual harassment was held last week at the Minnesota State Capitol.

What's next move at Capitol after 2 lawmakers step down?

Legislators consider ways to put a stop to harassment.
State Sen. Dan Schoen did not go to a news conference Wednesday. Instead his lawyer, Paul W. Rogosheske, raised questions about the harassment allegat

Schoen lawyer: Senator 'never meant to sexually harass anybody'

Attorney Paul Rogosheske presented the DFL state senator's resignation letter, but he said Schoen never sexually harassed anyone intentionally and suggested that the claims were politically motivated.
Rep. Tony Cornish and Sen. Dan Schoen announced Tuesday that they will soon resign, ending a jarring period in Minnesota politics, when the State Capi

Rep. Cornish, Sen. Schoen to resign after harassment claims

Two Minnesota lawmakers announce they will resign on same day following harassment allegations that reverberated at State Capitol.
Lawmakers and lobbyists said that Rep. Tony Cornish, shown in March, had repeatedly propositioned them for sex, and that he was known by many women wh

State Rep. Tony Cornish to resign after harassment claims

Republican state representative from southern Minnesota faced allegations from a fellow lawmaker and a lobbyist. Sarah Walker steps forward to say she's the lobbyist.
Sam Hanson, the lawyer representing Gov. Mark Dayton, delivered his oral arguments before the state Supreme Court.

The next legislative session is going to be strange

  Minnesota’s 2018 legislative session, which convenes Feb. 20, promises to be bonkers. The Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision last week to uphold a line-item veto…
Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman in a 2013 photo.

Commerce Commissioner Rothman resigns to run for attorney general

Dayton appointed Jessica Looman, deputy labor commissioner, to take over.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton addressed a wide range of issues including reports of criminal acts at senior care facilities from a Star Tribune repor

Gov. Dayton calls for task force to address senior care abuses

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he would create a task force to deal with abuses in senior homes revealed in a Star Tribune series this week. "The senior care failures are really appalling," he said.
Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, during a March 2017 hearing at the State Capitol. GLEN STUBBE •

Lawyer for lobbyist warns Rep. Tony Cornish to preserve documents

A letter to the legislator from an accuser's lawyer suggests a lawsuit may be coming.
For a few months every year, 201 lawmakers — two-thirds of them men — gather in St. Paul, many far from home and family, and insulated from the tr

Sex harassment allegations are challenging State Capitol culture

Those who regularly pass through the Capitol share stories of a proverbial small world that can enable untoward behavior.
State Rep. Tony Cornish, a Republican, is denying allegations that he sexually harassed women at the Capitol. ] GLEN STUBBE • glen.stubbe@startribun

Ex-GOP Speaker Zellers says he warned Cornish

"I believe he should resign" and apologize, says the former GOP House speaker.
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