Paul's family roots in Minnesota date to the 1860s when his great-great grandfather established a homestead along the banks of the Minnesota River in western Minnesota. In the 1930s, Paul's grandparents settled on a farm outside of Blooming Prairie. The Thissen farm remains in the family. Paul's other grandfather worked as a railroad conductor out of Duluth.

Paul's parents were both public school teachers. His dad, Frank, worked for the St. Paul Public Schools for over 30 years. His mom, Barb, taught in the Richfield School District for more than 25 years as a special education teacher.Blooming Prairie Memorial Day Parade

Paul grew up in Bloomington in a close-knit neighborhood. He went to high school at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield where he was student council president and an All-Conference football receiver.

Paul and his wife, Karen, were married in 1993. Karen is a lawyer and active in community activities. They have three children, Emily, Griffin and Evan.


Education and Professional

Paul's parents took out a second mortgage to send him to Harvard University. After graduating from Harvard with high honors in 1989, Paul attended the University of Chicago Law School. He served as an editor of the law review and graduated with high honors in 1992.

After law school, Karen and Paul chose to return to Minnesota. Paul clerked for the Honorable James B. Loken of the United State Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and worked for the Minnesota State Public Defenders Office. He also worked as a partner at two major Minnesota law firms.

In 2006, Paul was named one of "Forty Under 40" top business professionals in the Twin Cities by the Twin Cities Business Journal. In 2008 and 2013, Paul was recognized as one of the 100 Influential Minnesotans in Health Care by Physician Magazine and named one of the Twin Cities "Best Brains" in Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine.

Helping clients who could not afford to pay for legal services has been an important professional value to Paul. As Chair of his law firm’s Pro Bono Committee, Paul redesigned the firm's community efforts, creating partnerships with local non-profits to better serve their clients. As a result, the firm more than doubled the hours of free legal services it provided to low-income individuals and non-profits.

In the 1990s, Paul founded an innovative program for volunteer lawyers called Access for Persons with Disabilities to increase the availability of legal representation to persons with disabilities in the Twin Cities. Paul has served on numerous community boards and organizations.

Service in the Legislature 

Since Paul was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2002, he has demonstrated the ability and a willingness to tackle tough, complex issues and deliver on innovative, practical solutions.  After just four years of legislative service, Paul was appointed Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee in 2007 where he focused on expanding health care coverage for kids. As a result of his work, tens of thousands more Minnesota children can see a doctor or nurse when needed. 

He was selected to serve as Minority Leader for the 2011-2012 biennium and led his DFL colleagues back to majority status in November 2012. His legislative work has been recognized by numerous community groups and organizations. For more information about Paul's legislative record, click here.

Paul was selected by his colleagues in the Minnesota House to serve as Speaker of the House in January 2013. Under his leadership, the 2013-14 sessions were 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; and a two-year tuition freeze for public college and university students.  The legislature raised the minimum wage and passed the Women's Economic Security Act.  The legislature created the broadband investment program, enacted a first in the nation solar energy standard,  and legalized same-sex marriage. 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. Minnesota's 2013 legislative session received national attention.The Washington Post named Thissen an "Emerging Star Outside the Beltway."

A Commitment to Minnesota

Paul's hopes for Minnesota are simple and reflect the basic Minnesota values instilled in him since childhood. He wants to make sure that our state continues to be a place where our kids have the same opportunity to learn, grow and succeed that we did and where our parents can live their lives with independence and dignity.

He will continue to fight for those values now and in the future.  And he knows that can only happen when leaders from outside the Capitol bring their energies and ideas forward.  Paul wants to be a Governor that works not FOR the people,  but WITH the people.

Minnesota: Progressive Leader of the Nation

Under Paul's leadership Minnesota has received a great deal of national recognition for our progressive politics.  It’s a good sign of the progress we’ve made that we are being recognized not just by our neighbors in the Midwest, but nationwide. In fact, during his July 2015 visit to La Crosse, Wisconsin, President Obama touted Minnesota's 2013-2014 policy achievements as proof that middle class economics works.  (See MPR's July 2 story, In Wisconsin, Obama raps Gov. Walker's policies, praises Minnesota.)

In particular, our 2013 legislative session has garnered national attention. Paul's work was named one of the 25 Best Progressive Victories of 2013. I was also honored to be named by the Washington Post as an Emerging Star Outside the Beltway, which recognizes not just my work as Speaker but the victories of the entire Minnesota legislature and all Minnesotans. In the article, Reid Wilson says, “If Democrats are going to show how they would govern if given control, Minnesota stands out as one of the poster children.”