News & Politics

GOP Legislator Suspends Campaign After Accusation of Sexual Abuse by His Daughter

Minnesota state Rep. Jim Knoblach allegedly molested his daughter Laura for 12 years, starting when she was 9.

Photo Credit: Minnesota House of Representatives

On Friday, Minnesota Public Radio reported that GOP state Rep. Jim Knoblach abruptly suspended his campaign following allegations from his daughter, Laura Knoblach, that he had molested her for 12 years, starting at age 9.

The younger Knoblach, a prominent triathlete who is estranged from her family, recounted that her father "came into her room after she'd gone to bed and climbed in and laid down behind her."

"He would put his arm around me and not let me get up or get away and he would lick my neck or bite my ear," she said in an interview with MPR News.

These visits to her room, or similar kissing across her arms and neck and biting her ears while they watched movies on the couch, happened so often throughout her childhood and teenage years it became a defining part of her relationship with her father, she said.

There were other routine behaviors, she said, including more than 30 instances where her father approached her from behind and pressed his body against hers in the kitchen of their home, pinning her against the refrigerator or dishwasher and using his weight and strength to keep her from getting away.

The behavior, she alleges, continued until she was 21, at which point she left her family and moved to Boulder, Colorado. In 2017, the St. Cloud Police Department and the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office interviewed her and investigated the case, but could not find enough evidence that the behavior was illegal.

Knoblach, an eight-term lawmaker who chairs the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee, has called the allegations "false" and "indescribably hurtful," and his attorney, Susan Gaertner, suggested his daughter fabricated them for political reasons. However, Gaertner added, her client was suspending his campaign because he "does not want to drag his family through six weeks of hell."

The seat Knoblach represents, House District 14B, is in the St. Cloud area. According to Daily Kos Elections editor James Lambert, the seat swung from voting 53-44 for Barack Obama in 2012 to 47-44 for Donald Trump in 2016. Knoblach was already facing a credible Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party challenger in Dan Wolgamott, a local real estate agent and community volunteer running on a broad platform of strengthening education, economic development, health care access, LGBT rights, and green energy.

With Knoblach bowing out, MPR notes that the seat could be "impossible for Republicans to hold, barring some kind of court intervention or a write-in campaign by a substitute candidate."

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.