Spring Election Update: Republican Primary in SD 8; Supreme and Appellate Court Races

A total of four candidates will compete in a special election for the 8th Senate District, which was triggered by eight-term Sen. Alberta Darling’s (R-River Hills) retirement. The general election will take place on April 4, coinciding with Wisconsin’s 2023 spring election, which also features a statewide supreme court race and many nonpartisan and local elective offices such as judges, mayors, and school boards.

The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Sen. Darling’s term, which ends in January 2025. The election will determine whether the Republican Party maintains a two-thirds, veto-proof majority of 22 members in the Wisconsin Senate. All spring election candidates were required to file nomination papers by January 3, so the final list of candidates has been set.

Three Republicans will compete in a February 21 primary to select their party’s candidate. Republican Reps. Dan Knodl (Germantown) and Janel Brandtjen (Menomonee Falls), whose Assembly districts lie within the 8th Senate District, both entered the race shortly after it was announced. See Knodl’s campaign announcement and electoral history and Brandtjen’s campaign website and electoral history. Also running as a Republican is four-term Thiensville Village President Van Mobley (see his campaign announcement).

Two Republicans who expressed an interest in running will not appear on the ballot. Former Sen. Randy Hopper, who represented the Oshkosh-Fond du Lac area from 2009 to 2011, announced his intention to run for the seat but later dropped out, saying he did not want to “act as a spoiler by splitting the vote and allowing a divisive fringe candidate to win the primary.” Concordia University student Robert Albrightson did not file nomination papers by the deadline.

Jodi Habush Sinykin was the only Democratic candidate who filed to run, and she will face the winner of the Republican primary in the general election. A resident of Whitefish Bay, Habush Sinykin worked for Midwest Environmental Advocates from 2003 until 2020. See her campaign Twitter account and electoral history.

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).

In other news related to the spring election:

  • All four declared candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court filed their nomination papers and will appear on the February 21 primary ballot. The top two primary candidates will face off in the general election on April 4. See this article for our coverage of a recent forum featuring all four candidates. Notably, retiring Justice Patience Roggensack endorsed Judge Jennifer Dorow earlier this week.
  • Dane County Judge Chris Taylor, a former Democratic member of the Assembly, is the only candidate running for an open seat on the Madison-based District IV Court of Appeals. She will replace retired Judge Michael Fitzpatrick on the appellate court. Gov. Evers appointed her to the circuit court in 2020. See Taylor’s campaign website and electoral history.
  • Former Rep. Cody Horlacher (R) is running for a seat on the Waukesha County Circuit Court, challenging Judge Fred Strampe, who was appointed to the bench last year by Gov. Evers. Horlacher did not seek reelection to the Assembly in 2022. See Horlacher’s campaign announcement and electoral history.