© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

3 Republicans vie to take on Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin in key Milwaukee-area Legislative race

From left to right: Thiensville Village President Van Mobley, State Rep. Dan Knodl, State Rep. Janel Brandtjen.
From left to right: Thiensville Village President Van Mobley, State Rep. Dan Knodl, State Rep. Janel Brandtjen.

The State Supreme Court primary is not the only Wisconsin election Tuesday attracting national interest. So is the contest to replace retired Republican State Senator Alberta Darling in a suburban district that loops from Whitefish Bay to Mequon and all the way out to Richfield.

Senate District 8
Wisconsin State Legislature
Senate District 8

There's a three-way GOP primary Tuesday, with the winner taking on Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin in April.

One of the Republican contenders is State Rep. Dan Knodl, of Germantown. He told a forum in Menomonee Falls last Friday that he worked a lot with Darling during his 14 years in the Assembly, including on the controversial Act 10 law, curtailing bargaining rights for many public sector employees.

"And I'm going to refer to Act 10 because I've been there for those battles. And Senator Darling was there for those battles. And what did she get for passing Act 10, for taking that vote? What happened? She got recalled!" Knodl exclaimed.

Knodl says he helped Darling win her recall election. He says in the State Senate he wants to work on more tax cuts for Wisconsin.

Another State Representative from Darling's old district is also running to replace her. Janel Brandtjen of Menomonee Falls has been in the legislature for eight years. She says she'd proud of her past chairing of the Assembly Elections Committee and holding 21 hearings last year.

"One of the things we learned was we have private money from different groups— about 21 different groups in Milwaukee— they're having the ability to affect the outcomes of our elections," Brandtjen said.

Brandtjen also presided over hearings favorable to Donald Trump's false claims that he won the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin. Brandtjen eventually backed an opponent of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Racine County) in a primary race last August. After Vos was reelected in November, he removed Brandtjen as committee chairperson. But she has Trump's endorsement in Tuesday's GOP primary.

The third candidate in the Republican State Senate primary, Thiensville Village President Van Mobley, was an early Trump backer in 2016. Mobley describes their current relationship:

"I didn't make him, and he didn't make me. We just cooperated to accomplish some common objectives," Mobley said at Friday's forum.

Mobley, also a professor of History and Economics at Concordia University Wisconsin, says a big priority in the State Senate would be to abolish the Wisconsin income tax.

Progressive groups have been spending money in the Republican primary aimed at helping Brandtjen, guessing she'd be the easiest of the three GOP contenders for Habush Sinykin to defeat in the conservative-leaning district in April.

Abortion rights could be a key issue in that general election, as the Democrat has already been campaigning against the 1849 Wisconsin law banning almost all abortions.

The April contest will determine if Republicans regain a super-majority in the State Senate, potentially causing political problems for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

WUWM's Emily Files contributed to this story.


Related Content