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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
Gov. Tim Walz speaks during a news conference at the Department of Public Safety in St. Paul, Minn. on Saturday, May 23, 2020. Minnesota health offici

Poll: Walz's approval ratings grow in crisis

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's approval rating has risen as the first-term governor navigates the coronavirus crisis, with two in three registered voters supporting his performance on the job, a Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll found.

Husband-wife duo are endorsed for overlapping legislative seats

GOP state Senate hopeful Jose Jimenez recently celebrated Sandra Jimenez's recent Republican endorsement for a state House race.
Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans said Wednesday that a legal review by the agency confirmed that the Legislature does not have

Minnesota budget agency sides with DFL in state worker raise dispute

A legal review by Minnesota Management and Budget determined Republicans did not have authority to modify contracts up for ratification.
The House floor was mostly empty on Sunday, the final day of the regular Minnesota legislative session, as votes were cast by a roll call vote.

Special session to pick up where the Minnesota Legislature left off

Lawmakers left behind reams of partisan priorities, but they expect to come back in June
Sen. Karin Housley, a St. Mary's Point Republican sponsoring the legislation, said the state Cosmetology Board's decision to "arbitrarily" update the

Minnesota lawmakers exempt freelance hair and makeup artists from licensing

The measure reverses a 2018 decision by the state Board of Cosmetology.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., conducts much of her Senate business via teleconference during the world health crisis.

At the Legislature, time to say goodbye

The departures will leave at least a dozen committee leadership posts vacant, setting the stage for high-stakes musical chairs in January.
The entrance to Mall of America's new wing.

Senate leader, governor consider aid plan for Mall of America

A proposal to use a tax subsidy fund will have to overcome opposition from the city of Bloomington.
Gov. Tim Walz announced changes in Minnesota's stay-at-home restrictions in an address on Wednesday night.

Walz turns dials down with 'Stay Safe' plan

It's a significant step, but it's not a wholesale reopening: Starting Monday, people can get out more in groups of less than 10, and many more businesses can reopen, if there is a plan to keep workers and customers safe.
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Minnesota has a new drug price transparency law. Here's what it does

The bipartisan measure is the result of years of negotiations.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, shown May 5, is expected to extend the emergency powers he has wielded since the pandemic began to ramp up in March, leaders

Minn. lawmakers anticipate new pandemic emergency order

At the Capitol, Gov. Tim Walz is widely expected to extend his peacetime emergency powers.
Jenn McEwen

Third DFL incumbent blasts party endorsement process after losing

A third Democratic state legislator is questioning his party’s endorsement process after losing his bid for the DFL’s backing to a primary challenger. State Sen.…
Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari and former state Justice Alan Page have put their achievement-gap mission on hold.

Minnesota's hot-button issues go cold amid pandemic focus

Many issues will still come up in campaigns, as both sides jockey for control of the Legislature.
Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of the advocacy group Unchained at Last, right, led a group of women in the State Capitol to advocate a b

Bill to raise Minnesota's legal marriage age to 18 goes to Gov. Walz

The measure now goes to Gov. Tim Walz, who is expected to sign it, making the state the third in the nation to ban all marriages under the age of 18.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake

What people are saying about Minnesota's projected budget deficit

Minnesota is facing a projected $2.4 billion deficit, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend the economy, state budget officials announced Tuesday.  The grim forecast,…
On Twitter, state Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, referenced a “nice little tent city set up here” in St. Paul, before appealing to Gov. Tim

State senator compares homelessness to leisure camping in call for opening campgrounds

Homeless outreach advocates have expressed concern about outbreaks among the vulnerable.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker speaks during a news conference concerning the state’s efforts against the new coronavirus, Thu

Minnesota House Democrats advance bill guaranteeing pay for hourly school workers

A proposal seeking to guarantee pay for Minnesota's hourly school workers during coronavirus closures cleared the DFL-controlled House on Monday, setting the stage for an…
Health care workers staging a counterprotest Saturday blocked traffic in St. Paul on Saturday while others protested the stay-at-home orders meant to

Minnesota health officials say care system better equipped for COVID-19

Doctors and hospitals credit a stay-at-home order from Gov. Tim Walz with slowing an expected surge of patients, but that has political consequences.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, shown in March.

Minn. House GOP set to block bonding bill to end emergency

Gov. Tim Walz and leaders in both parties have said they want to pass a borrowing package this year.
Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, shown last month at a news conference.

GOP state senator in spotlight for golfing during Zoom hearing

Sen. Scott Jensen says he was listening, even on the putting green.
Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans with Gov. Tim Walz in March.

Minnesota budget chief sees likely deficit from pandemic costs

An updated budget projection on Tuesday is likely to show the first substantial deficit in years.
Water Gremlin employees made their way into the lot as its doors reopened for production after being shut down for more than a week over lead concerns

Minnesota moves to restrict toxic chemical after Water Gremlin scandal

White Bear-area residents near a polluting lead plant are credited with pushing the ban into law.
Lacy Johnson, a one-time state legislative candidate.

Lacy Johnson wins Republican endorsement to challenge Rep. Omar

The businessman has raised — and spent — more than $1 million in his bid so far.
Minnesota Senate Tax Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain speaks at a news conference at the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2

Minnesota Senate clears tax breaks in face of coronavirus pandemic

House Democrats oppose the tax measure.
In this Wednesday, March 4, 2020 file photo, abortion rights demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington.

Suit would block abortions during Minnesota pandemic restrictions

Reproductive health care services, including abortion, are exempt from order limiting "nonessential" procedures.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said last week that the Social Security proposal will remain a priority moving forward.

Minnesota Republicans, DFLers split on economic relief for coronavirus

DFL lawmakers say GOP tax breaks are premature given uncertainty about the state budget.
Lacy Johnson, a one-time state legislative candidate with a history of tax problems, outraised every federal challenger in the state in the first quar

Republican Lacy Johnson makes $1 million bet to challenge Ilhan Omar

Despite the long odds facing a Republican in a Democratic district, the donations come pouring in.
DFL State Party Chairperson Ken Martin.

Minnesota DFL to hold online convention in response to coronavirus

Democrats were scheduled to gather in-person in Rochester in late May.
Vice President Mike Pence and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz spoke to reporters after Pence visited 3M World Headquarters in Maplewood in March.

Vice President Mike Pence to tour Mayo Clinic's coronavirus testing in Rochester

Mayo is partnering with the state to test up to 20,000 Minnesotans a day.
The aisles were crowded and filled with competing political placards during the nomination race for governor at the Minnesota Republican Party Convent

Minnesota Republican Party moves to online convention in response to coronavirus

Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said it wasn't realistic to hold the mid-May gathering in Rochester.
Mike Stevenson flipped his barber shop sign to closed after learning state regulators had clarified that hair and nail salons, spas and other similar

Business disruptions in state could last 18 months, Walz says

Walz said stores, restaurants and other public places will long have to adapt to public concerns about the coronavirus, likely until there's an effective vaccine.
Kayla Shelley, a St. Cloud State University student, spoke at a 2019 press conference in support of a bill that would make two years of college free.

In Minnesota, Biden faces test with young Sanders supporters

"Don't expect us to jump up and down to vote for the lesser of two evils," one active supporter said.
Farrah Bergstrom, a Wayzata High School junior, is organizing a virtual international Model U.N. conference.

Minnesota teen takes Model UN global — and online — amid coronavirus pandemic

Even though a statewide version of the program was postponed, Farrah Bergstrom wasn't about to give up the chance to engage in global politics.
Democrat Dan Feehan, left, is challenging GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn for Minnesota's First Congressional District seat.

Minnesota money race: Cash flows in state, federal campaigns

Campaign cash continued to flow in Minnesota in the opening three months of the 2020 election year. Fundraising reports for federal candidates were due April…
Mike Jennings, owner of Scoreboard Bar and Grill and other restaurants, spoke during a news conference Monday at the State Capitol in St. Paul in favo

Minn. legislators strike deal on takeout beer and wine sales at restaurants

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday, and the House is expected to follow on Friday.
Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke before Bernie Sanders at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, Minn., on March 2, 2020 in St. Paul.

Rep. Omar's campaign keeps husband's political firm on payroll

The Democratic congresswoman has defended the business relationship with her now-spouse.
Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman wears a face mask at her desk as lawmakers met, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn., to pass a bill to

Virtual hearings provide inside look at Minnesota lawmakers

The Minnesota Legislature is set to return to work this week after a brief holiday break, with expected in-person floor votes (as required by law).

National political groups reserve millions for Minnesota TV ads

At least three are now touting plans to run political ads in the state this fall.
The Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis glowed light blue Thursday night, April 9, to honor healthcare providers and essential workers.

Top state GOP senator opposes Walz's order

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday defended extending his stay-at-home order, saying it is based on data and expert advice.
Rising costs have caused almost half of diabetics occasionally to skip taking their insulin, according to a 2018 survey.

'We've got a deal': Minnesota lawmakers work out affordable insulin program

For diabetics, a $35 copay for an emergency supply.
Registered nurse Lindsay Stewart showed the proper way to don PPE in the intensive care unit of Bethesda hospital, which has been converted into a COV

Minn. poised to expand workers' comp for first responders to virus pandemic

The proposal, which has support of leaders in both parties, would allow front-line workers who are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus to qualify for benefits that cover job-related medical expenses and illness.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's staff prepared to deliver his delayed State of the State address over YouTube from his residence.

What people are saying about Walz's State of the State

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz delivered his second State of the State address Sunday, urging residents to continue to come together to fight  the coronavirus…
Sen. Erik Simonson, shown in 2013. The timing of Simonson's new job with Lake Superior Collegehas sparked questions from some experts on government et

Minnesota lawmaker's new college job sparks conflict-of-interest questions

Duluth DFL Sen. Erik Simonson is the latest legislator to face questions about work outside the Capitol.
Sarah Stoesz, left, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, and state Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover.

Minnesota providers can continue abortion, drawing criticism from some

Bans in other states have sparked legal challenges.
Lawmakers doing social distancing in the Minnesota House take the Pledge of Allegiance, Thursday, March 26, 2020 at the State Capitol in St. Paul.

With Minnesota's political map in play, both sides gear up for legislative fight

Both sides are gearing up to spend big on legislative races.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 5,

Minnesota lawmakers retool service amid pandemic

Here are some of the options for communicating with officials.
Representatives including Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina, top, and Sandra Masin, DFL-Eagan, worked to keep the recommended distancing as the Minnesota Hou

Minnesota House, Senate pass $330 million in COVID-19 aid

Details of the new aid package did not come to light until shortly before the House and Senate votes, following days of private talks.
The House Chamber remained empty Wednesday, with every other desk marked with an "A" those may be occupied to maintain social distancing when they ret

Minnesota lawmakers turn to tech to stay in touch with constituents

Social media is playing an even bigger role during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stands with her husband, John Bessler, and daughter Abigail Klobuchar Bessler, left, af

Sen. Amy Klobuchar's husband hospitalized with COVID-19

The senator said she and her husband have not been in the same place for the past two weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake.

Minn. Senate Republicans question Walz's executive orders

Republicans who control the Minnesota Senate pushed back against some of Gov. Tim Walz's executive orders aimed at the coronavirus outbreak, among them changing unemployment rules.
Minnesota is one of only 13 states that now tax at least some Social Security benefits paid to seniors.

Can Minnesota afford to end its tax on Social Security?

GOP wants to end it, but even AARP says cuts could gut state's resources for seniors.
The Minnesota State Capitol.

Minnesota Capitol remains open as Gov. Walz says 'access to democracy is critical'

The decision came following days of behind-the-scenes discussions.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed SF 3813, a bipartisan bill allocating nearly $21 million toward the state COVID-19 response.

Coronavirus quarantines raise worries for Minn. hourly workers

An estimated 900,000 Minnesota workers, about 36% of the workforce, lack paid sick time.
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said his wife was among those who felt “disenfranchised” as the Democratic field shifted.

No 'clawback' change likely for early Minnesota voters

Minnesotans who cast an early primary ballot found that it was too late to change their vote, even if their original pick was no longer in the running.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren walked on stage at Macalester College last year when her presidential campaign came to St. Paul.

'It's just so bleak': Minnesota women reel after female candidates leave 2020 race

Some hope that a woman will be vice president.
Amy Klobuchar's speech Monday at a Salt Lake City rally was the last of her 2020 presidential campaign.

Inside Amy Klobuchar's decision to end her 2020 White House bid

Even within the Minnesota Democrat's circle of closest confidants, views on the best path forward differed.
Protesters shouting "Free Myon" and "Black Lives Matter" took over the stage before Sen. Amy Klobuchar was to speak on Sunday, March 1, at a rally at

Protesters force Klobuchar to cancel her rally in St. Louis Park

An hourlong protest forced Sen. Amy Klobuchar's campaign to cancel the rally at St. Louis Park High on Sunday night.
Bernie Sanders supporters Naomi Hornstein and Miriam Kelberg texted voters from St. Paul’s TakeAction Minnesota office.

Sanders ramps up in Minnesota ahead of Super Tuesday voting

Among the candidates courting Minnesota's primary voters, Sanders appears to be making one of the biggest and most aggressive plays to win the state, which he carried with 60% support in the 2016 caucuses.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday,

Sanders overtakes Klobuchar in small-dollar Minnesota donations ahead of Super Tuesday

Sanders out-raised Klobuchar among Minnesotans contributing to ActBlue in January.
The Minneapolis Early Voting Center, shown in January.

Young Minnesota voters feel urgency and plan to vote, poll finds

The Star Tribune/MPR Minnesota Poll found high interest in voting across gender, geographic and partisan lines.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks during a town hall meeting at the Colin Powell Center in Minneapolis.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's memoir set to hit shelves in May

The publisher describes the 288-page manuscript as an "intimate and rousing memoir by progressive trailblazer."
President Donald Trump arrived for a campaign rally at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (Doug Mills/The

Minnesota Poll: Voters split on Trump heading into election

A slim majority of Minnesota voters hold a negative view of President Donald Trump with eight months to go until the general election, according to a new Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll.
Amy Klobuchar thanked David Wellstone, son of the late Sen Paul Wellstone, for introducing her at the event and for his support. Behind them is Minnea

Klobuchar tells supporters in Nevada, Minnesota that focus is on Super Tuesday

Back in Minneapolis, the Minnesota senator says her national reputation is still building.
Pete Buttigieg tread on shaky ground when he invoked Walter Mondale’s name while debating Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Will Mondale quip hurt Buttigieg?

Local backers of the former South Bend mayor say the whole thing was overblown.
A Minnesota Republican caucus in Burnsville in 2016.

Minnesota parties still caucus this week

There is a presidential primary now, but the gatherings still play a big role in party business and organizing.
Minnesota Senate Tax Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain speaks at a news conference at the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2

Minnesota Senate GOP: Turn surplus into tax cuts

The plan would reduce the lowest tax rate from 5.35% to 4.9%, expand deductions for businesses and parents of school-age children, and fully eliminate taxes on Social Security income.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar sought to recover from recent stumbles on the trail and sparred with former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

'Not her night': What people are saying about Amy Klobuchar's debate

Amy Klobuchar entered the Nevada debate looking to build on momentum from her third-place finish in New Hampshire. But the Minnesota Democrat spent much of Wednesday night fending off intense scrutiny and attacks from rivals.Here's a look at what people are saying.
Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar was at the Clark County Democratic Party "Kick-Off to Caucus 2020" event on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Klobuchar races to reach out nationally before Super Tuesday

Top-tier status requires more cash and brings more scrutiny ahead of Super Tuesday vote.
Dawn Tyree shared her emotional testimony how she was forced in marriage at the age of 13 to a man who was 32 during a news conference at the State Ca

Push to ban underage marriage gains momentum in Minnesota

After falling short in the Republican-controlled state Senate last year, the End Child Marriage Bill has picked up support from a key committee GOP chairman.
Former Sen. Al Franken.

Al Franken still spending down leadership PAC cash

Franken, who resigned in 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct, spent more than $100,000 out of his Midwest Values PAC between July and December of last year.
Sen. Paul Anderson, shown in 2017.

Minn. GOP state senator bows out of swing district race

The district could be critical in the fight for control of the state Senate.
The Minneapolis Early Voting Center opened Jan. 17.

Your candidate dropped out? In Minnesota, it's not too late to change your vote

The field for the Democratic presidential primary is starting to winnow. Three candidates — Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval…
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, shown on primary night in Concorn, N.H., faces new challenges in Nevada and South Carolina, while building up a national campaign

After N.H. surge, Klobuchar is pivoting to compete in Nevada

Facing larger and more diverse presidential contests, the Minnesota Democrat heads first to New York to raise cash.
Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari and Justice Alan Page are calling on Minnesotans to pass a constitutional amendment aimed at closi

Minnesota business leaders launch push for amendment on education

Coalition wants guarantee of a quality education.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., arrived on Capitol Hill before the impeachment votes Wednesday.

Trump acquittal widens political rifts across Minnesota

As a divided Senate voted to acquit the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the case was thrown back to a deeply polarized public.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., hugs a woman after speaking at a campaign event, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Portsmouth,

Amy Klobuchar now looks ahead after likely fifth-place Iowa finish

The delayed results showed Klobuchar within striking distance of Joe Biden, a national poll leader who showed worrying signs of weakness.