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Torey Van Oot

Politics and Government | Reporter
Phone: 612-673-7299
Location: St. Paul

Torey Van Oot reports on Minnesota politics and government for the Star Tribune.

Van Oot covered state and national politics for more than a decade, contributing to outlets ranging from The Sacramento Bee to InStyle to The Washington Post. When she's not writing and tweeting about politics, Van Oot enjoys running, getting outdoors and checking out Minnesota's many craft breweries. She's told she has terrible taste in TV. Van Oot, who grew up in Vermont, lives in Minneapolis with her husband and a sweet but poorly behaved golden retriever.
Recent content from Torey Van Oot

Rep. Ilhan Omar endorses Bernie Sanders' presidential bid

Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison are both backing the Vermont senator.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at

'A good night': What people are saying about Amy Klobuchar's debate performance

The Minnesota Democrat has yet to qualify for the November debate.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a former Democratic congressman, has pledged to defend several state statutes restricting abortion despite h

Conservatives blast A.G. Keith Ellison's handling of abortion challenge

Motion to dismiss challenge to restrictions insufficient, critics say.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, seen July 25 in Washington, D.C., reported raising more than $1.1 million in the third-quarter fundraising period.

Rep. Ilhan Omar raises $1.1 million for re-election bid

Congresswoman's high profile, Trump's attacks help her raise $1.1 million.
President Trump spoke at a 2018 rally in Rochester. Trump is bringing his campaign to Minneapolis on Thursday, focusing on many of the same problems h

Trump rally in Mpls. follows his attacks on big cities, Democrats

On Thursday, Trump will bring one of his signature rallies to downtown Minneapolis, ground zero of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's district, where the urban-rural divide underlying his attack will be on full display.
State Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, is proposing to allow private driving instructors to administer the road tests.

Facing a long wait (and drive) for your license test? State senator has a fix for that

Karin Housley's idea: Allow private driving instructors to administer the road tests.
Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis

Fallout over legislator's job at U of M sparks calls for new disclosure rules

Transparency advocates are seeking tougher conflict-of-interest rules for Minnesota's 201 state representatives and senators, the majority of whom hold outside jobs when the Legislature is not in session.
President Donald Trump visited Rochester in October 2018 with a rally at Mayo Civic Center.

Trump will return to state for Oct. 10 rally at Target Center

It will mark his fourth visit in 16 months to Minnesota after repeatedly pledging to pour energy and resources into flipping the state in 2020.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Angie Craig called for Congress to immediately open impeachment hearings. Above, Craig spoke at a town hall in January.

Craig, Phillips seek probe over Trump Ukraine allegations

Two Twin Cities suburban House members joined a growing group of moderate Democrats on Monday voicing support for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

U president: Hiring of DFL legislator 'put at risk a core value'

Think tank's job offer to a DFL legislator spurs new university president to improve process.
Protesters gathered Friday at the Capitol in St. Paul to protest climate change inaction.

'Get the job done': Minnesota students call for climate action

Several thousand young people emptied local classrooms on Friday as part of a coordinated global movement seeking greater government action on climate change.
Gov. Tim Walz gestured a sign of respect to Ojibwe elders and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan after he signed a bill to launch the first official meeting of t

"Not one more": Minnesota launches task force on missing and murdered indigenous women

Panel is set to issue recommendations by December 2020.
Pills with 5-mg doses of Oxycodone.

New Minnesota opioid council goes to work

Members of the advisory board will help decide how to spend $20 million a year in new funds dedicated to curbing the crisis.
Republican Sen. Scott Newman, shown to 2012, has the answer as to how to pronounce the new set of letters linked to Minnesota's vehicle registration s

MNLARS was a mouthful; now legislators have to pronounce VTRS

That's short for Minnesota's Vehicle Title and Registration System.
The University of Minnesota has returned a $50,000 donation at the center of a controversy over the hiring of a DFL state legislator.

U returns $50,000 at center of legislative hiring controversy

The money was going to be used to pay the salary of a DFL legislator.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, shown in April. Hortman, the leader of the House DFL caucus, plans to review documents that prompted allegations of pol

DFL leader to review lawmaker's hiring for U fellowship

Republicans are alleging preferential treatment.
Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis

DFL lawmaker resigns from U post after questions about hiring

Republicans called for an investigation, citing "major questions" about the hiring process.
"I think we are turning a page and hopefully the problems we had for over a decade are behind us," state Rep. Frank Hornstein said Monday, Sept. 9, as

Legislators: 'We have turned the corner' on troubled MNLARS system

Legislators hope MNLARS replacement can reduce wait times, mistakes.
Mason jars for an informal kernel poll of presidential candidates at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 9. The crowded and divided Democratic c

As parties court small-dollar donors, undecided Democrats back multiple candidates

Macey Meyer never considered herself the type to donate to a presidential campaign. Then she watched the first Democratic presidential primary debates. The 26-year-old restaurant…
LeadMN Executive Director Mike Dean assisted 18-year old Justin Engels of Victoria, Minn., with his voter registration.

Young activists push voter registration at state's community colleges

Activists target 2-year colleges, which have more students of color, lag in voting.
Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, spoke in July about DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey’s resignation.

DHS returns to the hot seat; wedding bells for Rep. Dean Phillips

Turmoil at the Minnesota Department of Human Services will be back in the spotlight this week, as the state Senate holds a second hearing into…
U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar held a town hall meeting Tuesday in Minneapolis on ICE and the administration's immigration detention policies. Attorney Kara Lynu

Rep. Ilhan Omar: U.S. 'losing our moral high ground' on immigration

Community forum in south Minneapolis followed day of fresh turmoil for her.
Former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, a Republican, announced at the Minnesota State Fair that he will challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith in the 2020 e

What you need to know about former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis

The ex-GOP congressman and conservative radio host is challenging U.S. Sen Tina Smith in 2020.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, right, with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., at her side, were joined at Monday’s news conference by Minnesotans who have been affected

Rep. Ilhan Omar blasts Israel and Trump over trip decision

Speaking at a packed news conference in the State Capitol with fellow Rep. Rashida Tlaib, she vowed to continue to "highlight the human cost" of Israel's policies.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka met in January with members of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus. Residents in Gazelka's district, which has a stron

Rural Minnesota gun owners split on need to 'try something'

In this lakes region with a strong tradition of hunting and fishing, longtime gun-rights advocates are grappling with a response to latest shootings.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, center, spoke to staffers with the Victory Institute shortly after her arrival Thursday to the institute’s kickoff event. To

LGBTQ candidate training in Mpls. aims for repeat of 'rainbow wave'

The goal of the boot camp is to build on recent gains for representation in politics. And 2018 was a record year for out candidates running and winning.
Former Sen. Al Franken spent tens of thousands of dollars on political consultants, legal fees and expenses related to the May launch of his podcast o

'Zombie PACs': Franken, Lewis, others spend money after leaving office

Jason Lewis and Erik Paulsen also have zombie PAC balances; law doesn't prohibit their use.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participate in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN

What people are saying about Amy Klobuchar's debate performance

Amy Klobuchar got another shot at making a mark on a national audience Tuesday. As Patrick Condon writes in today's Star Tribune, the Minnesota…
Republican opens swing district campaign vs. Rep. Dean Phillips

Republican opens swing district campaign vs. Rep. Dean Phillips

First-time candidate Kendall Qualls praises President Donald Trump, who lost the district by 9 points.
GOP challenger Danielle Stella is accused of shoplifting from Target.

Rep. Ilhan Omar's GOP challenger accused of shoplifting from Target

Danielle Stella, 31, is one of five candidates challenging the first-term DFL congresswoman.
U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn at a recent town hall meeting at Owatonna Middle School. Six months into a two-year term, Hagedorn has shown no inclination to

6 months in office, Hagedorn sees strength in ties to Trump

The House Republican from southern Minnesota has emerged as a top target for Democrats in 2020, but he isn't shying away from conservative stances.

GOP businessman files to run against Rep. Dean Phillips in suburban House district

Republican Kendall Qualls is a former Army captain who has spent the past three decades working in health care and medical technology industries.
The Minnesota State Capitol in the evening sun.

Bills in Minnesota Legislature, copied from other states

From abortion to paid sick leave to school choice, legislators use prewritten bills, lifting full paragraphs written by political and religious groups.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar was greeted Thursday by more than 100 supporters cheering "Welcome Home Ilhan" as she arrived home to Minneapolis-St. Paul Intern

Supporters stand with Omar at airport rally and town hall

A crowd of cheering supporters at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was a loud counterpoint to a turbulent week with President Donald Trump.
Rep. Ilhan Omar reported raising more than $600,000 for her re-election bid between April and June. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, Fil

Rep. Ilhan Omar reports raising $600,000 more for re-election bid

Rep. Ilhan Omar, in the vortex of President Donald Trump’s Twitter attack on four Democratic congresswomen of color, raised more than $600,000 for her re-election…
Minnesota GOP Secretary Barb Sutter backed the 2020 re-election of President Trump on July 4th in Edina.

Trump forces 'staffing up' to end GOP losing streak in Minnesota

After the narrow loss in 2016, Republicans are pulling out all the stops.
Erin George handed children a free lunch from the Summer Food Service Program truck at a St. Paul apartment complex.

State aims to provide more students summer meals

Teams spread out to make sure no child goes hungry during break from school.
Lt. Gov. Elect Peggy Flanagan. RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER •

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan's Germany trip focuses on sustainability

Lt. Gov. Flanagan to lead state delegation on trip focused on sustainability.
Rep. Dean Phillips, heir to a fortune, filed for an extension for his financial disclosure form due to the “complexity” of his taxes.

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips late in filing disclosure

A spokeswoman said he filed for an extension in April and that filling out his form takes longer "given the complexity of Dean's finances."
The Minnesota State Capitol.

Minnesota State Capitol gets accessibility upgrade, monument fixes during summer lull

Officials have said the current setup created some accessibility issues during large public events.
FILE - In this March 6, 2019, file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., sits with fellow Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee during a bil

Omar: National pot legalization needed for 'equality in laws'

Eleven states have approved laws allowing recreational use of marijuana, but Rep. Ilhan Omar says states shouldn't get to "pick and choose."
FILE - This combination of June 1, 2018, file photos shows Minnesota U.S. Senate candidates from left, Democratic U.S. Sen Tina Smith and Republican K

Karin Housley won't run for U.S. Senate in 2020 vs. Tina Smith

Several other Republicans, including Rep. Jason Lewis, are still mulling a run.
Gov. Tim Walz praised the sweeping new law as a "visionary piece of legislation" that was "many tragedies and heartbreaks in the making."

Landmark opioid response law takes effect in Minnesota

The law, which took effect Monday, is expected to raise $20 million a year to fight opioid addiction by sharply raising fees on the companies that make powerful prescription painkillers.

Freedom to braid, new road names among new Minnesota laws today

Here's a look at 10 new measures being added to the state books Monday.
“If you say something that doesn’t reflect your party’s values or your candidate’s values, it can quickly go viral,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin

In era of rogue tweets, campaigns look to regain message discipline

Both parties making social media guidelines a core part of volunteer training.
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spoke after taking the oath of office at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan to lead Minn. delegation on trip to Germany

Officials will get tips on promoting sustainability in energy and agriculture.
Attorney General Keith Ellison spoke at an inclusivity forum on Friday, June 21, in Fergus Falls, Minn.

Ellison says he'll defend abortion restrictions in state statutes

Some wondered how state attorney general, an abortion-rights advocate, would respond.
Campaign signs of Democratic presidential hopefuls cover a fence outside the site of a fish fry held annually by Rep. Jim Clyburn during the South Car

Everything you need to know about the first Democratic presidential debate

The large field and subsequent process for deciding who gets to debate whom (and when) have prompted plenty of questions.
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.
A month after taking early retirement, IRRRB veteran Brian Hiti was back on the payroll as a part-time contractor making $41 an hour.

IRRRB veteran back on payroll after taking buyout

A veteran staffer was paid $166K to retire before being hired back a month later.
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.
Minnesota State Capitol. With just days before the end of session, lawmakers were locked in budget negotiations and unable to move ahead with major le

Why is the Minnesota Legislature's session so short?

The perennial end-of-session scramble raised a question for one reader: "They never get anything done, so why not extend it out and give them more time to get it done?"
Molten cheese oozes from a Jucy Lucy at Matt's Bar. (This does not constitute an endorsement.)

Matt's vs. 5-8? Klobuchar won't take sides in burger debate

As a three-term senator and presidential candidate, Amy Klobuchar is accustomed to fielding questions on some of the more divisive topics driving national politics. But…

Local governments spent $8.7 million to influence Minnesota Legislature

Hennepin County, other metro entities topped list.
Protesters rallied at the Minnesota State Capitol on May 21 to call for a stop to the abortion restrictions being instituted in some states. On Wednes

Lawsuit seeks to overturn Minnesota abortion restrictions

The lawsuit targets more than a dozen existing statutes, including a 24-hour waiting period and a provision mandating that fetal remains are buried or cremated.
Lawmakers returned to the State Capitol on Friday for a special session.

Minnesota lawmakers approve $48B budget in special session

After an all-night special session, both houses of the Legislature adjourned just before 7 a.m. after a series of votes on the next two years of state spending. But there was no deal on a public works borrowing bill, which will wait until next year.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Speaker Melissa Hortman at a Sunday news conference announcing the budget agree

Walz calls special session for today to finalize state budget deal

The move caps a week of closed-door talks between the governor and House and Senate leaders scrambling to fill in details of state government budget bills.
A sign for Bde Maka Ska near the south shore of the south Minneapolis lake.

DFL lawmakers yield on Bde Maka Ska, leave name to courts

Lawmakers continue hash out budget bills' details ahead of special session.
OxyContin 80 mg pills in an August 2013 file image.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signs opioid crisis response bill

Increased fees for drugmakers will raise $20 million a year for addiction prevention and treatment.
A special session still looms at the Capitol to finish much of the work that was not completed before the session came to a close at midnight on Monda

Session's ending leaves many unhappy with closed process

On the day after, left-out legislators, interest groups and the public say lack of transparency in late-session deals must end.
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."
Sen. Julie Rosen, left, was the chief author of the Senate version of the opioid bill. Above, she left a negotiating session on May 15 with Senate Maj

'This is going to save lives': Deal reached on opioid bill

The agreement could make Minnesota the first state in the nation to establish a separate state fund dedicated to opioid addiction prevention and treatment.
Governor Tim Walz met privately Monday with journalists to make his case for the budget deal, hammered out over the last week and announced Sunday nig

State budget deal: No gas tax hike; health care tax continues

The deal denies Gov. Tim Walz much of the new revenue he wanted for road improvements, but leaves mostly intact a health care tax that Republicans sought to end. There's also a small middle-class income tax cut.
The budget talks continued behind closed doors at the governor’s office at the State Capitol in St. Paul on Friday.

At Minn. Capitol, pressure builds on budget talks as clock ticks

With every passing hour, lawmakers are more likely to need Gov. Tim Walz to call a special session of the Legislature once they adjourn at midnight Monday, as required.
Minnesota state Sen. Chris Eaton, left, and Chazz Smith, right, a cousin of the late rock star Prince, attend a rally at the Minnesota state Capitol i

New Minnesota opioid initiative stuck in legislative gridlock

Activists fear they are running out of time.
Members of OutFront Minnesota and conversion therapy survivors told their stories at a rally outside Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka’s office on

Backers of gay conversion therapy ban rally ahead of deadline

Advocates say compromise language offered by Republicans doesn't go far enough.
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan returned to their offices after responding to the GOP budget offer Monday.

GOP, Dems sharply divided on taxes, stalling budget talks again

Monday's breakdown came after hours of incremental progress as formal negotiations resumed in earnest for the first time in nearly a week.
Gov. Tim Walz

Walz and legislators fail to make deal Sunday, remain $2B apart

While both sides say the talks have been collegial and productive, significant fiscal and ideological rifts remain between DFL leaders controlling the state House and governor's office and the Republican-led state Senate.
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
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.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka listened as Sen Carla Nelson, R-Rochester and Chair of the E-12 Finance and Policy Committee, talked about her edu

State Senate Republicans counter House DFL plan on school spending

Democrats, school leaders say the proposed funding level will lead to cuts.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka was gently nudged out of the news conference room after the conversation turned from upcoming Senate bills to what

Minnesota House moves to restore lake's legal name to Bde Maka Ska

Senate leader doesn't want it as a budget vote, while DFL Gov. Tim Walz calls move premature.
Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action for gun sense in America held a rally in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda on Monday.

Minn. House Democrats pass gun measures in public safety budget

But Senate leader says his chamber won't address them: 'The bills are dead.'
A sign for Bde Maka Ska near the south shore of the lake.

Bde Maka Ska is Lake Calhoun again, Court of Appeals rules

The state Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr lacked authority to change the name of a lake that had existed for more than 40 years.
Sen. Tina Smith toured the Richfield Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, hugging CEO Sarah Stoez. Minnesota is challenging the new rules.

Clinics fight Trump plan to deny funding for abortion referrals

Proposal would affect 31 offices across Minnesota that provide referrals for abortions.