Paul Thissen

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Paul Thissen
Paul Thissen.jpg
Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives
In office
January 8, 2013 – January 5, 2015
Preceded by Kurt Zellers
Succeeded by Kurt Daudt
Minority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives
In office
January 6, 2015 – January 2, 2017
Preceded by Kurt Daudt
Succeeded by Melissa Hortman
In office
January 4, 2011 – January 7, 2013
Preceded by Kurt Zellers
Succeeded by Kurt Daudt
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 61B district
63A (2003–2013)
Assumed office
January 7, 2003
Preceded by Mark Gleason
Personal details
Born (1966-12-10) December 10, 1966 (age 51)
Bloomington, Minnesota, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Karen Wilson
Education Harvard University (BA)
University of Chicago (JD)

Paul Thissen (born December 10, 1966) is a Minnesota politician and former Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives. He also served twice as DFL Minority Leader. Thissen was the longest serving leader of the Minnesota House Democrats since Martin Olav Sabo in the 1970s. A member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), he represents District 61B in south Minneapolis. First elected in 2002, Thissen has been reelected every two years since.

Family, education and professional career[edit]

Thissen was born in Bloomington, Minnesota. His parents, Frank and Barb Thissen, were both lifelong educators. Frank grew up on a farm in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, that the family still owns, and worked for the Saint Paul Public Schools as a teacher, counselor, and administrator. Barb worked for many years as a special education teacher for Richfield Public Schools.

After graduating from the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minnesota, Thissen attended Harvard University and graduated with high honors in 1989. He earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1992.

Thissen clerked for James B. Loken of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and then went to work at the Minneapolis law firm of Briggs & Morgan, where he specialized in general litigation and appellate work and served as chair of the firm's Pro Bono Committee. During Thissen's tenure, he pioneered new approaches for lawyers to serve the community, initiating partnerships with several local non-profits. The firm more than doubled the hours of free legal services it provided to low-income individuals and nonprofits.[citation needed] Thissen also worked for the Minnesota State Public Defender's Office and founded "Access for Persons with Disabilities," a group of lawyers dedicated to providing legal services to persons with disabilities.

Thissen now works as an attorney specializing in health care law at the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum. In 2006, he was named one of "Forty Under 40" top business professionals in the Twin Cities by the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal.[1] In 2008, he was named one of the "Best Brains" in the Twin Cities by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.[2] In 2008 and 2012, Paul was recognized as one of the 100 Influential Minnesotans in Health Care by Physician Magazine. In 2013, he was named the sixth most powerful person in Minnesota by Minnesota Monthly Magazine.[3]

Thissen is married to Karen Wilson Thissen, with whom he has three children, Griffin, Evan, and Emily.

Thissen has been active in community activities. He is a Trustee of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and has served on the boards of the Minnesota Justice Foundation and numerous other local nonprofits.

Minnesota House of Representatives[edit]

Early Service[edit]

Thissen was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2002, in his first run for public office.

During his first two terms, Thissen served as a member of the minority party and developed a reputation as someone who could work across party lines.[according to whom?] He was a key player in passing significant legislation, including major changes to Minnesota's eminent domain laws to protect the rights of individual property owners, the merger of the insolvent Minneapolis Teachers Retirement Fund into the statewide teachers pension fund, a nation-leading law to curb abusive tax-preparer practices, and an overhaul of state campaign law.

Thissen in 2009

In 2006, Thissen served as Finance Co-Chair of the House DFL Caucus and raised more money than the Republican opposition. In the election that November, the DFL added 19 seats to its majority. Politics in Minnesota named Thissen one of the big "winners" of the 2006 election in its November 9, 2006 edition.[citation needed]

From 2007 to 2010, Thissen served as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. Before becoming minority leader in 2011, he also served on the Health Finance Committee, the Biosciences Committee, the Telecommunications Division, the Finance Committee, the Rules Committee and the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement.[4] Thissen also served as speaker pro tempore.

Thissen was chief author of HF 1, the Children's Health Security Act. The proposal, which would provide health coverage to all children in Minnesota families who make under $60,000 per year, passed the Minnesota House.[when?]

Thissen served on the Health Care Access Commission and also served on Governor Tim Pawlenty's Health Transformation Taskforce. In 2008, he played a key role in passing health-care reform legislation that the Minneapolis Star Tribune named the prize of the 2008 session.[5]

In the 2010 election, the DFL lost its majority in the Minnesota House. Thissen was elected by his peers to be the Minority Leader for the DFL House Caucus. He was named 2012 Legislator of the Year by Politics in Minnesota.[6] Thissen led the Democrats back to control of the Minnesota House in the 2012 election.[7]

Speaker of the House[edit]

After leading his caucus to victory in the 2012 election, the Minnesota House of Representatives elected Thissen Speaker for the 2013-14 legislative sessions.[8] He became speaker on January 8, 2013.

The 2013 session was among the most productive in a generation, passing the first significant investment in early childhood education in Minnesota history; all-day, every-day kindergarten for every five-year-old in the state; a two-year tuition freeze for public college and university students; and the legalization of same-sex marriage.[9] The legislature also passed the Minnesota Dream Act, providing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants, and expanded health coverage for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans, creating a Minnesota-based health insurance exchange called MNSure.[10] Minnesota's 2013 legislative session received national attention.[11][12] The Washington Post named Thissen an "Emerging Star Outside the Beltway."[13]

Thissen at Mayo High School in 2016

The 2014 session continued this progressive work. The legislature increased the minimum wage from among the nation's lowest to $9.50 and indexed the wage to inflation in the future.[14] It also enacted $550 million in middle-class tax cuts, including additional significant property-tax relief, and passed limited medical marijuana legislation.[15] And the legislature enacted the Women's Economic Security Act, a package of policy ideas Thissen had made his top priority for the session, which includes pay equity requirements for state contractors, workplace protections for caregivers and new mothers, and incentives for women entrepreneurs.[16] Upon the session's conclusion, the Star Tribune commented, "For the most part, Minnesota is once again the state that works."[17]

In January 2015, Thissen was elected Minority Leader by his DFL colleagues; he served in that position through the end of 2016.

Role in new Viking Stadium financing[edit]

In 2012, Thissen, then House minority leader, was instrumental in securing public financing for U.S. Bank Stadium, along with Governor Mark Dayton and then Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.[18]

2010 Minnesota gubernatorial campaign[edit]

In November 2008, Thissen launched an exploratory campaign for the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial race. On July 24, 2009, he officially announced his candidacy, noting that he would focus on the issues of health care, renewable energy and education.[19] Thissen's campaign surprised many since he started as an unknown in a field of high profile candidates yet built broad support across the state.[20]

At the April 2010 DFL State Convention, Thissen won more delegates than any of his rivals in the large Congressional districts outside the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. He outlasted several candidates, but ultimately withdrew from the race after the fifth round of balloting, which led to a two-person race between then House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.[21]

2018 Minnesota gubernatorial campaign[edit]

Thissen campaigning for governor in 2017

On June 15, 2017, Thissen announced that he would run for governor again in the 2018 election.[22]


2014 Minnesota State Representative- House 61B[23]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
DFL Paul Thissen 14740 80.94 -0.45
Republican Tom Gallagher 3445 18.92
2012 Minnesota State Representative- House 61B[24]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
DFL Paul Thissen 19748 81.39 +10.78
Republican Nathan Atkins 4448 18.33 -10.96
2010 Minnesota State Representative- House 63A[25]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
DFL Paul Thissen 10988 70.61 -3.63
Republican Nathan Atkins 4558 29.29
2008 Minnesota State Representative- House 63A[26]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
DFL Paul Thissen 15314 74.24 -0.42
Republican Rene Rameriz 5280 25.60
2006 Minnesota State Representative- House 63A[27]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
DFL Paul Thissen 12304 74.66 +8.57
Republican David A. Alvarado 4149 25.18
2004 Minnesota State Representative- House 63A[28]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
DFL Paul Thissen 13845 66.09 +8.7
Republican Amy Vrudny 7072 33.76
2002 Minnesota State Representative- House 63A[29]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
DFL Paul Thissen 10304 57.39
Republican Tim Erlander 6846 38.11
Independence Ron Lischeid 800 4.46

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Business Journal names 2006 'Forty Under 40' winners". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. May 12, 2006. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  2. ^ Lambert, Brian; et al. (November 2008). "Our Best Brains". Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Power and the New Establishment". Minnesota Monthly. February 2013. 
  4. ^ "Thissen, Paul". Legislators Past & Present. Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Down to the Wire, 2008 Session Delivers". Star Tribune. May 18, 2008. 
  6. ^ Briana Bierschbach (January 3, 2013). "Legislator of the Year: Thissen's Play on Stadium Vote Shaped End of Session Dealings". Politics in Minnesota. Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  7. ^ "A Middle Class Majority". July 5, 2012. Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ Stassen-Berger, Rachel E. (November 8, 2012). "Bakk, Thissen to lead DFL at the State Capitol". Star Tribune. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Conversation with House Speaker Paul Thissen on Gay Marriage". Washington Post. May 11, 2013. 
  10. ^ "DFL Moved Minnesota Forward". Star Tribune. June 10, 2013. 
  11. ^ "The 25 Best Progressive Victories of 2013". Huffington Post. January 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Is Minnesota a Liberal Utopia". MSNBC. August 5, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Outside the Beltway, 2013 A Year of Emerging Stars". Washington Post. December 31, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Minnesota House Passes Minimum Wage Bill; Dayton to Sign Monday". Pioneer Press. April 10, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Poligraph: Picking Apart Daudt, Thissen Claim ("Most people including most middle class Minnesotans are going to be seeing lower taxes as opposed to higher taxes.")". Minnesota Public Radio. May 23, 2014. 
  16. ^ "MNWESA Website".  "Dayton Signs Law to Give Women a Better Workplace". Star Tribune. May 11, 2014.  "Minnesota Can Lead for More Workplace Fairness". Star Tribune. May 27, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Minnesota Legislature in 2014". Star Tribune. May 16, 2014. 
  18. ^ Minnesota Lawyer - Briana Bierschbach - May 25, 2012 - How the stadium deal was done
  19. ^ "Thissen launches run for governor; Rukavina explores run". Star Tribune. July 23, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  20. ^ Campbell, Bradley (Oct 14, 2009). "Thissen is Statehouse's Smartest But Is He Ready to Be Governor". City Pages. Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  21. ^ Kimball, Joe (April 24, 2010). "Movement in the 5th; Kelliher close and Thissen out". MinnPost. Retrieved January 24, 2013. 
  22. ^ Star-Tribune - Patrick Coolican - June 15, 2017 -Former Minnesota DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen to run for governor
  23. ^ "Results for State Representative District 61B". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Results for State Representative District 61B". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  25. ^ "Results for State Representative District 63A". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Results for State Representative District 63A". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Results for State Representative District 63A". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Results for State Representative District 63A". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  29. ^ "Results for State Representative District 63A". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Minnesota House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mark Gleason
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from District 61B
63A (2003–2013)

Preceded by
Kurt Zellers
Minority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Kurt Daudt
Preceded by
Kurt Daudt
Minority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Melissa Hortman
Political offices
Preceded by
Kurt Zellers
Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Kurt Daudt