Walz stood by Rep. Thompson despite domestic abuse allegations in 2020 campaign

It took Gov. Tim Walz well over a week to see how Rep. John Thompson’s latest brush with the law played out with the press and public. But the governor finally called on the St. Paul legislator to resign, citing years old domestic abuse allegations in Thompson’s record as a line in the sand. Quite a contrast to Walz’s enthusiastic endorsement of Thompson last year.

“I’ve known John for years. His fierce advocacy and commitment to his community is exactly what’s needed in the State Legislature right now. I look forward to working with him as the next state representative for 67A,” Walz said in his endorsement.

In increasingly strident statements in the Star Tribune and other media, Walz has conveyed the impression that he had only recently become aware of Thompson’s long and checkered background.

Police reports from three departments detail five domestic assault cases, some that took place in front of children, from 2003-11. Walz said the allegations have rendered the freshman DFL lawmaker from St. Paul no longer fit to serve.

“We all make transgressions in our lives, but I just want to be clear, the information over the weekend involving multiple accusations, cases of domestic violence in front of children just makes it to where I cannot believe that the representative can continue to serve us well,” Walz told reporters after visiting a Lake Elmo middle school as part of a tour touting Minnesota’s two-year education budget.

Yet rather than call out Thompson when it mattered most, Walz stood by him. When domestic abuse allegations against the first-term lawmaker first publicly surfaced in the media last August in the midst of Thompson’s campaign, Walz continued to support the activist’s controversial candidacy, as Alpha News points out.

Alpha News first brought attention to Thompson’s domestic abuse charges in August 2020. Gov. Tim Walz and other top Democrats upheld their endorsements of Thompson in the November election.

There was no official condemnation of Thompson’s record, only lukewarm references to the candidate’s tirade outside of then-Minneapolis Police Officers Federation President Bob Kroll’s house at a Black Lives Matter protest in Hugo. In fact, the governor’s response was hardly a blip on KARE-11 News and other media coverage.

In response to Thompson’s comments, Gov. Tim Walz and the DFL both released statements but did not rescind their endorsements. Walz said that “we cannot accept the threatening behavior and rhetoric we’ve seen recently in our political discourse,” while DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said they do “not condone any rhetoric which is violent, hateful, or inflammatory.”

Walz picked up where he left off in the campaign with his initial comments on the latest controversy involving Thompson, a traffic stop for which the legislator accused St. Paul police of racial profiling. The Pioneer Press story included Walz’s remarks from an interview on WCCO-TV. Again, no reference to the domestic abuse allegations by the governor.

“Yes,” Walz said when asked directly by TV reporter Esme Murphy on WCCO Sunday Morning. “It’s Representative Thompson’s choice, but I’m a big believer … body camera footage should be released in all situations, not just where it exonerates the police or if it shows something the police did wrong.”

But as questions continued to swirl around Thompson, Walz suddenly found his voice as a champion of domestic abuse victims again. DFL leadership joined Walz in expressing their newfound outrage, almost a year later than the opportunity to stand up first presented itself. Now he’s leading the charge.

Walz would not prescribe any actions he would like to see from the Legislature in response to Thompson’s refusal to resign. “I would just encourage them to follow through,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent are among the DFL leaders calling for Thompson’s resignation.

Just one problem. So far, Thompson refuses to follow the script and resign on cue over an issue that clearly wasn’t a problem for the governor and his cohorts, until now.