MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — House Republicans say they are prepared to file ethics complaints in the wake of several domestic assault allegations against DFL Rep. John Thompson if the House DFL doesn’t take disciplinary action on its own.
Top brass in the Minnesota DFL and the GOP party and its leaders are calling for Thompson’s resignation after reports emerged of domestic assault allegations going as far back as 2003. Thompson denies all accusations against him.READ MORE: Rep. John Thompson's Lawyer Says He 'Challenges The Authenticity' Of Domestic Violence Police Reports
On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz doubled down on that message, saying elected officials must be held to a higher standard.
“I just want to be clear that the information that came out over the weekend involving multiple accusations, cases of domestic violence in the presence of children, just makes it so that I do not believe the representative can continue to serve us well,” Walz said. “It’s my belief when you get to a point where you’re no longer effective or you’re hurting the cause, it probably makes sense to move on.”
Among those who called for Thompson to leave office over the weekend are House Speaker Melissa Hortman and DFL Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, the top leaders in the DFL-led chamber.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, wrote Hortman a letter Monday asking her to use her office’s authority to hold Thompson accountable.
If the DFL caucus doesn’t, he wrote, House Republicans are prepared to file complaints through the House Ethics Committee, a remedy that could lead to a vote to expel Thompson from the House.
“Rep. Thompson’s refusal to resign leaves the House of Representatives at an untenable impasse. His recent actions and reports of abuse and misconduct are unacceptable,” Daudt said. “Inaction by House Leadership in this situation is simply not an option, and it’s our expectation you will take appropriate steps accordingly.”
A Hortman aide said the speaker will meet with House counsel again to determine an appropriate course of action.
The state Constitution gives the chamber the power to expel members if a two-thirds majority agrees to it upon recommended action from the ethics committee. The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, though, said it has yet to confirm an instance in which a sitting legislator was removed from office in this way. There have been some votes over the past few decades that failed.
One complaint against Thompson, filed by Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, has a hearing scheduled for Friday. Lucero charges that Thompson impugned the Republican’s character when he called him a “racist” during a House floor debate last month.
READ MORE: Walz, DFLers Call On Rep. John Thompson To Resign Following Allegations Of Domestic Violence
Thompson, through his attorney, said he “challenges the authenticity of the police reports” detailing the allegations against the first-term state representative.
“The police reports are a product of the campaign to silence an American African man who speaks out against powerful and abusive interests, and not the product of any effort to uncover truth,” his attorney, Jordan Kushner, said.
When asked about that claim Monday, Walz said he would find it “very unusual” for three different departments to “fabricate” the documents detailing the accusations.
Minnesota DFL to review its candidate-vetting procedures following Thompson controversy
Ken Martin, party chairman for the Minnesota DFL, is also calling for Thompson to resign. He told WCCO that the party “doesn’t want candidate on our banner with that kind of background” regarding the accusations of domestic violence.
Martin said the DFL will now review the procedure for examining candidates and their history. He called the current research process to vet candidates running on the ticket as “extensive,” but the party typically uses those resources for targeted swing districts, or those seats DFL is at risk at losing or has a chance of winning back from Republicans and could tilt the balance of power.
Thompson’s legislative district is safe for Democrats and not considered a swing district, he said, but “given what we know now” the DFL will “reevaluate” the process.
The secretary of state’s office said it does not have investigative or enforcement authority to scrutinize a candidate’s background or verify their residency.
Where Thompson lives emerged as central question when he showed a St. Paul police officer a Wisconsin license during a July 4 traffic top in which he alleges he was racially profiled.
In order to run for legislative office in Minnesota, a person must be a qualified voter in the state, be 21 years of age, and must have resided one year in the state. State lawmakers also are required to have lived the six months immediately preceding the election in the district from which they are elected.
Candidates sign an affidavit attesting that they meet those criteria. Thompson signed the affidavit for candidacy in May 2020 but checked a box seeking his address private for safety.