Daily Digest: Knoblach ends campaign after allegations

Good morning, and welcome to the first full work week of fall. Here’s the Digest.

1. Key state lawmaker drops reelection bid after daughter goes public with allegations. Republican state Rep. Jim Knoblach abruptly ended his re-election campaign Friday as MPR News prepared to publish detailed accusations from his daughter of inappropriate behavior toward her since childhood. The announcement came hours after an attorney for Knoblach denied the allegations in an interview. Knoblach, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, declined to be interviewed after being approached more than a week ago. In a written statement, Knoblach called the allegations “indescribably hurtful” and said he would work toward healing his family. “I love my children more than anything, and would never do anything to hurt them. Her allegations are false,” Knoblach wrote. “I and other family members have made repeated attempts to reconcile with her in recent years, but she has refused.” Knoblach’s daughter, Laura, alleges that the prominent legislator inappropriately touched her for most of her life, behavior she confided to close friends, family and authority figures at her school and church for more than a decade. She said she decided to tell her story to MPR News after exhausting other means to hold her father accountable, including a 2017 investigation by local law enforcement. No charges resulted. She provided MPR News with extensive documentation about her attempts to get help. (MPR News)

2. Knoblach’s decision raises political questions. Knoblach is not resigning immediately, but he’s not running for re-election or planning to return to the Capitol next year. If Republicans manage to maintain their current control of the state House, they will have to replace Knoblach in his role as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. It’s one of the most powerful positions in the chamber, and Knoblach had deep knowledge of the state budget and a say in every spending measure that moved through the House. Democrats need to flip 11 seats to take control next year, and they believe they have a shot. Knoblach’s central Minnesota seat was already on their radar. Real estate agent Dan Wolgamott is the Democratic candidate, and he’s been on the trail for months. (MPR News)

3. Johnson clear on tax cuts, less so on spending reductions. Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson’s tax cut proposals would cost the state treasury significant money. A cut in the lowest income tax bracket, from 5.35 percent to 4.35 percent, which Johnson said would be his first objective, would reduce revenue by $651 million per year, according to the Department of Revenue. A 1 percentage point cut on all four brackets would reduce revenue by nearly $1.7 billion. Given the two-year budget cycle of about $46 billion, cutting incomes taxes across the board by 1 percentage point would require a 7.4 percent budget reduction. Cutting just the lowest bracket would require a 2.8 percent budget decrease. Shielding Social Security benefits from taxes would reduce revenue by $387 million and would jump an additional 8 percent per year due to the state’s aging population, according to the Department of Revenue. Eliminating the statewide business property tax would reduce tax dollars to the state by another $785 million annually. Ending a tax on health care — used to fund medical programs for the poor and those with disabilities — at the end of 2019 will reduce revenue by another $750 million in 2020. (Star Tribune)

4. Attorney general candidates debate. DFL candidate Keith Ellison continued to deny allegations of domestic abuse Friday night, at times fending off questions from both moderators and opponent Doug Wardlow during the first post-primary debate for Minnesota attorney general hosted by TPT’s “Almanac”public affairs show. Ellison, a six-term member of the U.S. House from Minneapolis, has been accused by former girlfriend Karen Monahan of domestic abuse. She has said he dragged her off a bed by her feet during a fight before they separated in 2016 and alleges years of emotional abuse. During the “Almanac” debate, Ellison said “it simply isn’t true.” Wardlow, the GOP candidate from Prior Lake, took the offensive, attempting to punch holes in Ellison’s reputation as he tries to win the seat for the Republicans, who haven’t had a successful attorney general candidate for almost a half-century. (Pioneer Press)

5. A lot of outside money flowed into Minnesota campaigns the last few weeks. Outside groups are spending on Minnesota congressional races ahead of the August primary and the November election. Independent expenditures allow groups to spend without contribution limits on advertising and other efforts for and against candidates. Here’s a place to check what groups are giving the money and where it’s going. (MPR News)

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