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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
Safiya Ali voted at the Brian Coyle Community Center in 2018. Which voters turn out could determine the 2020 election.

2020 vote could go either way with higher turnout

Conventional wisdom tells us that Democrats benefit from higher turnout in presidential election years. Their key voter blocs, like the young and people of color,…
President Donald Trump greeted cheering crowds at the Target Center on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Can President Donald Trump really win Minnesota?

  There’s no doubt that President Donald Trump is making a strong play for Minnesota, as evidenced by Thursday’s rally at Target Center where he…
Sen. Tina Smith and Gov. Tim Walz applauded as former Gov. Mark Dayton’s official Capitol portrait was unveiled during a ceremony Thursday.

Portrait celebrates former Minnesota Gov. Dayton's legacy at Capitol

The former governor says the painting honors not just himself, but democracy and state's people.
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan greeted students at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development Wednesday.

Gov. Tim Walz hits the road for a major public works package

Tour anticipates a legislative battle over state infrastructure projects.
Minnesotans have received more than 387 million robocalls this year, or 58 per person with a phone, according to state data.

Minnesota House DFLers prepare to crack down on robocalls

Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said the legislation would be the "toughest" in the country.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., in a September photo.

Rep. Omar files for divorce from her husband, Ahmed Hirsi

She has denied allegations of an extramarital affair.
Progressives, taking a page from the book written by the conservative movement, are building their own infrastructure.

TakeAction, progressive groups mimic conservatives, build infrastructure

When Sen. Paul Wellstone died 17 years ago this month, many of the up-and-coming progressive politicos coming into the arena were in elementary school.But he'd…
Quinn Nystrom showed her dad, Bob Nystrom, insulin outside a pharmacy in Fort Frances, Ontario, where six Minnesotans traveled to purchase insulin in

Diabetes advocate Quinn Nystrom to run against Rep. Stauber in 8th District

The rising price of insulin has thrust Nystrom, a former Baxter City Council member, into the public eye in recent months.
Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz blasts nicotine industry as youth vaping soars

Minnesota Department of Health survey finds a 54% increase in vaping among 11th-graders from 2016..
Democratic congressional candidate Dan Feehan on the campaign trail in Madelia, Minn., in 2018.

Feehan announces rematch with Hagedorn in First District

Feehan wasted no time opening up attacks on Hagedorn.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz to focus on reducing school dropouts; critics see a diversion from falling test scores

Graduation changes students' lives, he says. Others see a deflection from low test scores.
President Donald Trump is headed into the Democratic belly of the beast with his visit to Minneapolis on Oct. 10.

What is the impact of a presidential visit? Maybe nothing

Among the questions: Can Trump make the significant gains he would need to win in the state?
John Westmoreland

Top leader at Minnesota union resigns amid investigation

The nature of the allegation has yet to be made public.
State Reps. Jon Koznick, left, and Pat Garofalo placed bets at FanDuel Sportsbook in Diamond Jo Casino. Garofalo led a trip to the casino just across

Can Iowa-style sports betting pay off for Minnesota?

Legislators travel to Iowa casino to gather facts (and check out the action) following state's newly passed law.
Demonstrators with Everytown for Gun Safety outside the partially-scaffolded U.S. Capitol building earlier this month.

Democrats debate whether to mobilize base or target swing voters

Democrats are having a wonkish but important debate right now as they pick their next standard-bearer: Should they try to persuade voters who supported President…

Minnesota state workers, Walz administration reach tentative contracts

State workers get raises and help with student loans.
In 2004, Rep. Tina Liebling became the first Democrat in the era of partisan legislative elections to win a seat from Rochester.

While Minnesota's population shifts, center of political gravity moves south

Rochester area getting more diverse and younger; grip on Iron Range is slipping.
“By far the dominant predictor of how someone votes is party identification,” the University of Arizona’s Chris Weber said.

Despite worries, presidential debates will do little to shift party lines

Liberal commentator Jonathan Chait’s headline about the most recent Democratic debate was stark: “Let’s face it: The Democratic primary so far has been a…
Alida Messinger is a major donor to the DFL-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which is assessing its focus for 2020.

The big outside groups are playing it close to the vest

Boots on the ground and a smart strategy to direct them come into play in close races.
New Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead took questions from sate senators after being introduced at the start of a Minnesota Stat

New DHS leader promises to 'rebuild trust' at agency

Jodi Harpstead told a Minnesota Senate panel Wednesday that her priority is restoring credibility in a sprawling social service agency that has been hit with a revelations of poor financial controls and a chaotic leadership shuffle.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, has rocketed from conservative backbencher to a leading Minnesota critic of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, his former colleag

Lawmaker goes from GOP's back bench to leading Omar critic

As the go-to guy for Fox News personalities to talk about U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Mazeppa Republican Steve Drazkowski has been given a national platform for political fundraising as he mulls a run for Congress.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren drew thousands to her town hall on Shaw Field at Macalester College in St. Paul last week.

Democrats asking: What makes a candidate electable?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s visit to Minnesota last week drew thousands. Naturally her visit raises contrasts with Minnesota’s own presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar. On issues…

Loss in court slices millions from Minnesota state budget

The state of Minnesota is potentially out more than $130 million this budget cycle after losing a court battle that will greatly limit the state's ability to collect taxes on trust accounts in other states.
Jimmy Fallon visited with fans in Minneapolis during a taping for the Super Bowl edition of "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

Minnesota Film and TV board makes changes in wake of Jimmy Fallon controversy

Productions around special events no longer eligible for subsidies.
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…