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Torey Van Oot

Politics and Government | Reporter
Phone: 612-673-7299

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
Al Lindell, head election judge, handed an "I voted" sticker to a voter from behind a plexiglass barrier as voters gathered for the election Tuesday a

Listen: Will Minnesota join push toward a national popular vote?

Fifteen states have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, but Minnesota isn't one of them. Host Eric Roper talks to reporter Torey van Oot about why.
Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch

North Branch senator launches bid to lead Minnesota GOP

Jennifer Carnahan, the current party chair, has not yet said whether she plans to run for another two-year term.
Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, pictured after the fatal November 2019 fire, plans to renew efforts to require property owners to add sprinklers t

Minn. lawmakers hope to revive stalled push for sprinklers in old high-rises

Spurred by fatal fire in Minneapolis, bill became stalled during pandemic.
Gov. Tim Walz stood in front of Casper’s and Runyon’s Nook in St. Paul to roll out a proposal for a legislative relief package aimed at helping bu

Walz, GOP legislators offer plans with relief for businesses

Gov. Tim Walz said he hopes to call legislators back into special session as early as next week. "It feels like there's bipartisan momentum," he said outside the Nook in St. Paul.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle joined forces Monday to encourage Minnesotans to wear masks and social distance over the holidays.

Two Republicans join Minn. House Democrats in urging virus caution

About one-fifth of legislators vow to take safety steps, urge residents to do the same.
After officially announcing her candidacy for President, Amy Klobuchar's first appearance in Iowa was in Mason City.

Klomentum or Klobmentum? Tweet revives heated Klobuchar primary debate

Many months (years? lifetimes?) ago, a fierce debate dominated some corners of the Democratic primary Twitter: What should U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s rising status in…
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Minnesota GOP lawmakers silent on Trump efforts to subvert election

Republicans serving in Minnesota's congressional delegation remained silent Friday as President Donald Trump forged ahead on a last-ditch effort to nullify the outcome of the…
Carlos Remigio, right, a volunteer, and Michael Lindsay, left of center, a Ramsey County employee, worked to unload the car of an election judge, coll

Will Minnesota join the push to switch to a national popular vote?

Coming off the 2020 presidential election, the conversation around the Electoral College continues to heat up.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Sen. David Tomassoni have left the DFL to start an independent caucus.

2 Minnesota senators split from DFL, start independent caucus

Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, a longtime Capitol power broker, and Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm cited growing political polarization.
U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn) held a town hall meeting at Blaine City Hall in October 2019.

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer re-elected as House GOP campaign chair

Republicans exceeded handicappers' expectations nationwide.
Outgoing Senate President Senate President Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, right, gave Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, a congratulatory elbow bump before

Republicans in Legislature make moves on Klobuchar speculation

In the sixth special session this year, legislators played political chess as Republicans tried to protect their one-seat hold on the Senate next year if Sen. Amy Klobuchar joins President-elect Joe Biden's cabinet.
Initial election returns showed Republicans maintaining a slim majority in the Minnesota Senate and Democrats holding control of the state House.

It's official: Divided government reigns at the Minnesota Legislature

Any possible recounts wouldn't change the majority balance.
With most legislators working remotely, members present on the Minnesota House floor stood for the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the fifth spec

It's official: Divided government reigns at the Minnesota Legislature

Any possible recounts wouldn't change the majority balance.
Grocer's Table employee Drew Sigel had his temperature checked before clocking in on Tuesday, part of a new health screening for employees. When the r

Walz orders early bar closures, group limits to curb virus spread

Gov. Tim Walz announced dial back measures that close bars and restaurants at 10 p.m. and restrict the sizes of wedding and funeral receptions, as well as indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, pictured at a bill signing, has extended the pandemic peacetime emergency for another 30 days. (Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star

Walz extends state of emergency, prompting record sixth special session

Gov. Tim Walz will extend the coronavirus state of emergency, triggering a sixth special session of the Minnesota Legislature this year.The Democratic governor cited a…
After the abrupt ending to the special session, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, talked with House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crow

Divided Legislature could bring bipartisanship — or gridlock

For most of the past decade, Republicans and Democrats at the Minnesota State Capitol have clashed over budget deficits and haggled over taxes and spending.…
Voters waited at Peace United Church of Christ in Duluth’s 15th precinct to vote Tuesday. Many of the state races were close.

What does it all mean? Four top takeaways from Minnesota's elections

An estimated 3.2 million Minnesotans voted in Tuesday’s general election — either via absentee ballot or in person — making for a 79% turnout that…
Gov. Tim Walz, left, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, center, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.

Minnesota Legislature on track for more divided government

Minnesota voters seemed likely to deliver another two years of divided government in St. Paul as initial results from Tuesday’s election showed Republicans retaining a…
The Minnesota State Capitol was illuminated earlier this year.

Divided government or a DFL trifecta? Election will determine control of Minnesota Legislature

An expensive and hotly contested battle for control of the Minnesota Legislature came to a head Tuesday, with the outcome of a handful of legislative…
Casey Scrignoli filled out her ballot while her dog, Chester, played on the floor at First United Methodist Church in Duluth on Tuesday morning.

What a Minnesotan needs to know about the top races on Election Day

Election Day is finally upon us.   First, the essentials. If you still need to vote, polls are now open statewide. Find your polling…
Tasha Huebl, left, and Alexandra Tup door-knocked in Prior Lake on Sunday, Nov. 1, for the Trump ticket. They also put out door fliers for down ballet

As time runs out, campaigns scour Minnesota for votes

Facing the prospect of postelection court fights, Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials urged voters who hadn't already mailed their ballots by the final weekend to take them to early drop-off sites or vote in person Tuesday.
Ramsey County election judges Nancy Matthews and Kathy Lair checked ballots as they removed them from ballot envelopes.

Unprecedented vote a test to Minnesota election system

State officials already navigating the pandemic have been called on to protect the integrity of the election, defend face mask requirements and guard against possible acts of voter intimidation.
Voters checked in to vote at the Hennepin County Government Center, Oct. 27, 2020.

Minnesota voter site experiencing outages just days before election

The absentee ballot tracker is back up, but an ongoing outage involving the voter registration system could lead to longer lines at early voting sites. Another short outage was planned just after 3 p.m. Saturday to work on the problems.
How to vote in the 2020 elections in Minnesota

How to vote in the 2020 elections in Minnesota

How do I get an absentee ballot? What if I'm not registered to vote? Here's what you need to know to cast your ballot.
Minneapolis Elections and Voter Services staff prepared mail-in ballot envelopes, including an "I voted" sticker. Because of COVID-19, Minnesota is wa

What happens to your Minnesota absentee ballot after you mail it?

Minnesota has seen a surge of interest in absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election, as more voters opt to vote early or by mail in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 1.6 million voters have cast their ballot early, either via mail or in person, so far.

Nearly 1.6 million Minnesotans have already cast ballots

Minnesota's early voting centers continued to draw crowds on Friday.
President Donald Trump and Joe Biden

Trump, Biden both headed to Minnesota today for rallies

Trump will be in the Rochester area today; Biden will be in St. Paul.

Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis released from hospital after emergency surgery

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis was released from the hospital Wednesday, days after undergoing emergency surgery.Lewis, a former congressman, sought treatment Monday…
Tens of millions in campaign dollars flood fight for Minnesota Legislature

Tens of millions in campaign dollars flood fight for Minnesota Legislature

DFL-aligned groups have outspent the GOP so far.
Republican challenger Lacy Johnson and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar

For Omar, re-election turnout in Fifth District is about more than a win

She and challenger Johnson aim to power statewide vote.
Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, above, is challenged by former Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens.

Will 2020 be the year of the woman (again) for the Minnesota Legislature?

One outcome appears certain: The number of women serving in the Senate come January will increase.
Voters waited at the elections and voters services building at 980 E. Hennepin Av. in Minneapolis on Oct. 16.

With days to go, more than 1.1M Minnesotans have voted so far

The volume of early ballots accepted this year is already almost double the number counted for the entire 2016 election. With 11 days to go until Nov. 3, the mountain of mail ballots is expected to rise.
A small group of protesters by the fence surrounding the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on June 19, 2020.

Minnesota State Capitol fence to stay 'until further notice'

The temporary fence went up on May 31 as a precaution to protect the Capitol following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
Gov. Tim Walz has steadily increased his presence on the campaign trail, even though he doesn’t face re-election until 2022.

Gov. Walz not on the ballot this year in Minnesota? Think again

As the state's top elected executive, and a face of the state's response to COVID-19, the governor and his record are an election-year issue in the 201 legislative races for control of the State Capitol.
The statue of Christopher Columbus lies on the ground after it was toppled in front of the Minnesota State Capitol, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in St. P

Walz officials nixed return of Columbus statue at Capitol

Internal e-mails were released shortly before Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced the formation of two task forces to help guide decisions.
Lynette Drake of Hennepin Healthcare administered a free flu shot at North Hennepin Community College as part of an effort to register student voters.

At community colleges, new hurdles in turning out the vote

From puppies to free flu shots, organizers are getting creative.
Erin Murphy, pictured in 2018, is now running for an open state Senate seat in St. Paul.

Minnesota campaign watchdog nixes GOP complaint against Democrat Erin Murphy

Sen. Paul Gazelka alleged that the state Senate candidate had violated campaign law.
Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, the driving force for he bonding bill in the Senate, got a fist bump from Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East

Minn. Senate approves $1.9B infrastructure package

The passage marked the end of months of contentious negotiations over a measure supporters say will provide an infusion of cash and jobs into state and local economies. The measure also includes tax changes backed by Republicans.
In a 30-second video, Bridgett Floyd recalls meeting with Joe Biden along with other members of her family after her brother was killed by Minneapolis

'The change we need': George Floyd's sister appears in new Biden ad

George Floyd’s sister is urging Americans to vote, in a new television ad released by the Biden campaign Wednesday. In a 30-second video,…
An AutoZone store burned as protesters gathered outside the Third Precinct in Minneapolis on May 28, 2020.

Minnesota Senate GOP report blames Gov. Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey for slow riot response

Democratic leaders reject findings, call document fodder for election.
The bonding bill requires a three-fifths majority to pass, giving unusual power to minority caucuses in the House and Senate.

A last shot at a bonding bill in Minnesota?

Legislators will convene in St. Paul again on Monday for a fifth special session.
Republican Tyler Kistner, left, is challenging Rep. Angie Craig in Minnesota's Second District race.

Federal judge: Minn. congressional race is back on for November

The contest between U.S. Rep. Angie Craig and Republican Tyler Kistner had been delayed after the death of a pro-pot candidate.
Gov. Tim Walz, pictured here at a July event, is renewing the peacetime state of emergency.

Walz extends peacetime state of emergency for coronavirus response

Legislators will return for a fifth special session on Monday, Oct. 12.
What would it take for Trump to win Minnesota over Biden?

What would it take for Trump to win Minnesota over Biden?

Geography is just one of many variables in a presidential race — but it's a big one. Where voters turn out could determine whether President Donald Trump becomes the first Republican presidential candidate to win Minnesota in nearly half a century.
Supporters, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, left, and his wife Maralee, meet President Donald Trump as he arrived at Minneap

Republicans Gazelka, Lewis test negative for COVID-19 after Trump visit

Several say they'll restrict activities for a time after president tested positive.
FILE - In this July 29, 2020, file photo, mail in ballot envelopes including an I Voted sticker are prepared in Minneapolis. Nevada's new vote-by-mail

Minnesota's primary had few late or rejected mail ballots

Higher rates of mail-in ballots were returned by Minnesota voters during the state primary, while relatively fewer were rejected.
Republican Kendall Qualls, left, is challenging Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips in the Minnesota Third Distrct race.

Phillips, Qualls vie for moderate voters in swing suburban district

Donald Trump lost the historically Republican Third Congressional District in 2016, and DFLers flipped it in 2018.
Vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, shown Monday in Raleigh, N.C., told the DFL the path to the presidency “runs straight through Minnes

Harris: The path to the presidency 'runs straight through Minnesota'

In a pretaped address a day after Trump hosted a rally in the state, she pledged to build on party momentum.
The Minnesota Republican Party’s executive director has reportedly left her role, with about a month until the general election. The party has been

Minnesota GOP executive director leaves position

Becky Alery's departure comes five weeks before Election Day.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, seen on Nov. 6, 2019, said on Wednesday that the state's absentee ballot system "has worked very well, succe

Top Minnesota election official defends integrity of mail-in ballots

A day after President Trump questioned the integrity of mail-in ballots during the first presidential debate, Secretary of State Steve Simon defended the state's absentee ballot safeguards, noting that Minnesotans have voted absentee since World War II.
Rep. Dean Phillips, pictured at a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing, has condemned the break-in at his campaign office. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool v

Arrest made in break-in at Phillips campaign office

A Rogers man has been arrested in connection with an August break-in at U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips' campaign office.Justin Evans, 44, faces felony burglary charges…
President Donald Trump walks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a news conference to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the Rose Ga

Poll: Majority want Senate to hold off on Supreme Court pick

Just 39% of likely Minnesota voters say the Senate should vote on President Trump's nominee before the November election, according to a new Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll
Sen. Tina Smith and Jason Lewis.

Poll: Smith leads Lewis in U.S. Senate race

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith holds a comfortable lead over GOP challenger Jason Lewis in her bid for a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate, according to a new Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll.
Democrat Erin Murphy, pictured during her 2018 gubernatorial run, is seeking a St. Paul state Senate seat.

Senate candidate Erin Murphy's hiring plan sparks GOP complaint

In an e-mail, Erin Murphy said she was recruiting staffers to work for the Minnesota DFL Party, not her campaign.
Rep. Fue Lee (DFL) District: 59, seen outside his Northside home Wednesday in Minneapolis, said 20 members of his family came down with COVID-19 after

DFL legislator's family confronts COVID-19's spread

The moment he felt a slight itch in his throat, state Rep. Fue Lee worried he might have caught COVID-19. Days earlier, the Minneapolis Democrat…
During his speech Friday night in Bemidji, President Donald Trump praised Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee by saying: "He would have won, except for Get

Trump's praise of Robert E. Lee gets pushback from Minnesotans proud of state's role at Gettysburg

Minnesota soldiers played a pivotal role at Gettysburg, a major Confederate loss.
If you’re getting tired of seeing the faces of candidates in ads on your TV or device screen, know that the bombardment has just begun. There are se

These tools can help you navigate the 2020 political ad wars

With just over six weeks to go until Election Day and early voting now underway, campaign ads are taking over.
President Trump danced down the catwalk to "YMCA" Friday night in Bemidji as his supporters cheered him on after his speech there.

Trump, Biden stress jobs as they bring campaigns to Minnesota

At a Bemidji rally, President Donald Trump also had a warning about refugees. It came hours after Democratic challenger Joe Biden flew into Duluth. Union, working class voters were the focus of the visits to a region of shifting political inclinations.
Rep. Gene Pelowski, pictured during a 2013 floor session, is facing a fine for improper use of his campaign funds. GLEN STUBBE * gstubbe@startribune.c

DFL lawmaker ordered to repay campaign for nearly $4K in living costs

DFL Rep. Gene Pelowski's lawyer said living expense payments were an error.
Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis talked with Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury as Senate President Jeremy Miller, R-Winona prep

Money expected to pour in as battle for Minn. Senate heats up

The outcome could alter policy for years to come, including state's pandemic response and a chance to redraw the state's political maps for the next 10 years as the decennial redistricting process gets underway.
John Thompson, activist and candidate for Minnesota state representative, marched outside St. Anthony Village City Hall for Philando Castile in July.

Police group pulls endorsements of several DFL incumbents

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers' Association has clashed publicly with House DFL over a candidate's conduct.
Gov. Tim Walz, pictured here at an event in mid-August, has called the Minnesota Legislature back for a fourth special session in response to the coro

Gov. Walz calls Legislature back for another special session

The session set for Friday could bring political fight.
John Thompson, a close friend of Philando Castile, exhorted the crowd to demand justice for George Floyd outside his service at North Central Universi

Minnesota DFLers postpone fundraiser after backlash over Hugo protest

An influential police union had raised concerns about DFL candidate John Thompson's involvement in the event.
Ashley Quinones protested at Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s home. Her husband, Brian, was killed by police in 2019.

Street confrontations during summer of protest raise political tensions

Some see the clashes as a symptom of a growing tribalism in American politics that has brought social tensions to new heights.
Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan recently visited Michigan, Florida and Nevada on behalf of Asian Pacific Americans for Trump.

Minnesota Republican Party chairwoman hits road for Trump

As chairwoman of the state Republican Party, Jennifer Carnahan is one of President Donald Trump’s biggest and most vocal boosters in Minnesota. But she’s also…
This mailer is being sent to households across Minnesota from a group called Common Sense Voters of America, an Ohio-based political advocacy group. (

GOP-slanted mailers to Minnesotans have tie to Kanye West campaign

Mailers, funded by GOP PAC that worked for West, include ballot application while bashing Joe Biden and Tina Smith.
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips won election to the Third Congressional District in 2018.

Rep. Dean Phillips says Minnetonka campaign office was burglarized

A Minnesota congressman says his Minnetonka campaign office was burglarized overnight. Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips tweeted the news of the break-in on…
The Minnesota National Guard arrived in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday morning.

Lessons learned after George Floyd's death inform Minneapolis, state response to riot

City and state officials worked together at a far faster pace Wednesday night than they did in late May.
Former Gov. Mark Dayton said he expects “to return to full strength and resume usual activities” after several more months of outpatient rehabilit

Former Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton recovering after fall, surgery

Dayton, 73, wrote on Facebook that he expects to return to full strength in the coming months.
A screen displayed President Donald Trump as he spoke during the first day of the Republican National Committee convention, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in

Minnesota GOP aims for 'every voter that's not a hard Democrat'

Expanding the base beyond rank-and-file Republicans is a key component of the Trump campaign's re-election strategy in key battlegrounds such as Minnesota, a state the president has vowed to flip after a narrow 2016 loss.
Still fighting: Betty Folliard, former legislator and activist for the Equal Rights Amendment, sees the ERA as an extension of women’s suffrage.

For Minnesota women, voting rights fight not over 100 years later

Women still struggle with sexual harassment and wage gaps while they have yet to shatter the highest glass ceiling in Minnesota and national politics.
Kanye West announced in July that he planned to run for the White House himself as an independent candidate.

Kanye West files to appear on Minnesota's presidential ballot

Election officials have up to 10 days to determine whether the rapper qualified.
Claudia Moses, 17, and grandfather Jules Goldstein are both serving as delegates at this year’s virtual DNC.

One Minnesota family, two sides of the Democrats' generational divide

A 17-year-old activist and her 73-year-old grandfather are part of the Minnesota delegation.
Because of COVID-19, Minnesota is waiving the requirement to have a witness sign mail-in ballots.

Minnesota high court to expedite mail-in voting decision

A legal challenge targeting new absentee voting rules is headed to the Minnesota Supreme Court ahead of the November election. Minnesota has made a number…
The progressive primary victories Tuesday, all in districts Democrats are expected to win in November, will bring more youth and diversity to the Stat

Progressives shake up DFL incumbents in Minnesota

DFL legislators ousted in primary see progressive convictions not enough to hold off youth, energy.