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Lawmaker abandons campaign amid daughter’s allegations of inappropriate conduct

MINNESOTA — 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.”

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

In early 2017, the St. Cloud Police Department and Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office conducted a two-month investigation into the allegations of inappropriate behavior by the state representative. 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 told CNN on Sunday that she told her story to MPR News because “I realized that I would never fully heal from this until it was all out in the open” and “I was afraid that, if he had done this to me, he could have done this or worse to others.

“While I believe both reasons were equally valid, I could have perhaps lived with the first one,” she added. “I knew I could not live with the second.”

Knoblach said she only sought her father’s personal apology, adding, “While it grieves me that he’s chosen to deny his actions, it does not surprise me.”

“I strongly believe that decision to suspend the campaign was nothing more than an attempt to save face, and spare himself from the outrage that has been his to own for many years,” she said.

Laura Knoblach told CNN she is “really not sure what’s next,” but added, “I can say that I feel finally able to move forward and to move on with my life.”

Laura Knoblach, now 23, alleged in her interview with MPR that while she was growing up 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.

After Laura Knoblach published a Facebook post in December 2016 saying her family had tried to “silence” her allegations, her uncle contacted the police and the joint law enforcement investigation was launched.