Minnesota lawmaker quits campaign after daughter says he inappropriately touched her for 12 years

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota state representative suddenly ended his reelection campaign ahead of a Minnesota Public Radio report detailing allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior brought forward by his daughter.

Laura Knoblach told MPR News in a story published Friday that her father, Minnesota Republican Rep. Jim Knoblach, who represents the St. Cloud area, inappropriately touched her from the time she was 9 years old until she was 21.

In a statement on his re-election campaign website, the eight-term representative said his daughter “has been estranged from our family for some time” and called the allegations false.

“I love my children more than anything, and would never do anything to hurt them,” the statement said. “Her allegations are false. I and other family members have made repeated attempts to reconcile with her in recent years, but she has refused.

“I could fight on for another six weeks to defend my reputation while running for re-election. But this would entail subjecting my wife, son, and elderly parents, as well as my daughter, to six weeks of extreme stress and scrutiny,” the statement said. “I’m also not willing to spend six weeks fighting with my daughter in the media. As a result, I feel I have no choice but to effectively end my campaign today so that I can work towards healing my family.”

Laura Knoblach and Rep. Knoblach’s attorney did not immediately return CNN’s requests for comment.

The St. Cloud Police Department and Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office subsequently conducted a two-month investigation over the matter. According to a transcript of a conversation between Laura Knoblach and an investigating police officer, the officer determined that the state representative’s behavior was “really inappropriate but not criminal, MPR News reported. The Sherburne County Attorney’s Office declined to press charges, citing “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jim Knoblach had committed a crime.”

Laura Knoblach, now 23, alleged in her interview with MPR News that her father frequently visited her room or sat next to her on the couch and “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 also alleged that he routinely “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,” according to the story.

She told the news outlet that when she was 20, her father “pinned my wrists above my head and just started like making out slobbering open mouth kisses with tongue on my neck and biting my ear.” She also alleged that later that night, while her family was watching a movie together, “her father put his face between her legs repeatedly, kissing and licking up her legs.”

Laura Knoblach said she detailed the alleged behavior to friends, family, a teacher, a local pastor at her church over the course of more than a decade. She also said she came forward with her story to MPR News after exploring all other avenues to hold her father accountable over the issue, including an investigation by local law enforcement last year.

After Laura Knoblach published a Facebook post in December 2016 saying her family had tried to “silence” her allegations, her uncle contacted the police.

In a Facebook post linking to the news of her father’s decision not to continue his reelection campaign, Laura Knoblach wrote, “My heart has never felt this heavy, (b)ut my shoulders have never been so light.”