ST. PAUL — Embattled state Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, agreed Friday, July 30, to apologize publicly for calling a colleague “racist” on the House floor earlier this year.
Thompson’s agreement to apologize to Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, on the House floor the next time the House is in session was unanimously approved by a bipartisan House panel Friday afternoon. The formal ethics complaint Lucero filed against Thompson earlier this summer will be dismissed.
The ethics complaint, while a rare and serious matter in the House, is unrelated to a series of weighty controversies dogging Thompson, a firebrand freshman lawmaker whose activist tactics made him a lightning rod even before his election last year.
Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and other top Democrats called for his resignation last month after the media reported details from a number of police reports that alleged Thompson committed physical violence against women in several jurisdictions well before he was elected.
Thompson has refused to resign, and his current wife, who police reports state made the allegations of the most violent acts, recently denied he ever abused her.
A review of Minnesota and Wisconsin court records show John Thompson never has been convicted of domestic abuse. He has been arrested, charged or listed as a suspect in six incidents involving alleged violence toward women between 2003 and 2011 in Wisconsin and Minnesota, according to public records located by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In several of the cases, Thompson pleaded guilty to lesser charges. He has declined to discuss the incidents in any detail.
Thompson also has faced questions about potentially providing a false address to Wisconsin after he was pulled over July and furnished a Wisconsin driver’s license that he has held since July 2000 and continually renewed, including as recently as November 2020 — the same month he was on the ballot in Minnesota. He has been registered to vote in St. Paul since 2004 to an address on the city’s East Side, within the district he currently represents.
Republican leaders have stated they’re prepared to file ethics complaints against Thompson over the issues, and Hortman has said she’ll welcome any such complaints, but none had been filed as of Friday. It was unclear if fellow Democrats, who include domestic abuse survivor advocates disturbed by the allegations against Thompson, were preparing to file anything.
There are several potential paths of sanction that can be mounted against Thompson.
‘You're a racist’
Friday’s hearing stemmed from a June 19 incident when Lucero was speaking on the House floor on law enforcement-related proposal. Lucero, a conservative known for ribbing liberal Democrats in his speeches, referred to Thompson’s profanity-laced tirade during a protest outside the Hugo home of former Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll.
Thompson, tuning in remotely, interrupted Lucero, apparently seeking to make a formal objection to Lucero’s comments. During a roughly 1-minute contentious and confusing exchange with several members attempting to speak at once, Thompson twice can be heard saying “I know you’re a racist.”
Lucero, who identifies as Latino, filed a formal ethics complaint signed by five fellow Republicans.
The agreement for Thompson to apologize was brokered behind the scenes. Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, who chairs the Ethics Committee, announced the accord during a videoconference meeting of the committee Friday afternoon.
Davnie asked both Thomspon and Lucero if they agreed, and each man said he did, but neither discussed the actual incident. The committee, made up of two members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and two Republicans, voted 4-0 in favor.
Davnie thanked both men. The House is expected to next convene in September.