Sen. Darling Retires; Special Election to Take Place in the Spring

State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) retired on December 1, stepping down in the middle of her eighth term in office. She announced her retirement two weeks after the November 2022 election. Sen. Darling served in the Wisconsin Legislature for a total of 32 years, representing the 8th Senate District since 1993. She served on the budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance for nine years. Elected officials including Gov. Tony Evers (D) and U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R) acknowledged her retirement and thanked her for her service.

Shortly following Sen. Darling’s retirement, Gov. Evers announced that he ordered a special election for April 4 next year. It will coincide with the state’s 2023 spring election, which will feature a statewide supreme court race and many nonpartisan and local elective offices such as judges, mayors, and school boards. The election will determine whether the Republican Party maintains a two-thirds, veto-proof majority of 22 members in the Senate.

The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Sen. Darling’s term, which ends in January 2025. A primary will be held on February 21 if multiple candidates from one party are on the ballot. Prospective candidates have until January 3 to submit nomination papers to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. So far, four Republicans and one Democrat have announced their intentions to run for the open seat.

Republican Reps. Dan Knodl (Germantown) and Janel Brandtjen (Menomonee Falls), whose Assembly districts lie within the 8th Senate District, have announced bids for the open seat. Also planning to run as Republicans are four-term Thiensville Village President Van Mobley and Robert Albrightson of Brown Deer, a student at Concordia University who works as a marketing manager for a Catholic school.

On the Democratic side, attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin is the only candidate to announce so far. A resident of Whitefish Bay, Habush Sinykin worked for Midwest Environmental Advocates from 2003 until 2020. Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay), whose district lies within the 8th Senate District, has stated that she will not run for the seat.

State Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, announced last week he would be a candidate for the 8th Senate District seat. Knodl, who has served in the Assembly since 2009, said in a statement he planned to focus on issues including “runaway inflation, attacks on parental rights, and efforts to defund our police.”

The 8th Senate District covers a mostly suburban area north and northwest of the City of Milwaukee. It is a Republican-leaning district that U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) won with 54.2 percent of the vote in 2022, while Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels won the district more narrowly (51.5 percent).