MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker endorsed by former President Donald Trump was defeated Feb. 21 by a fellow state legislator in a three-way GOP primary for an open state Senate seat representing Milwaukee’s northern suburbs.
State Rep. Dan Knodl of Germantown beat Trump-backed state Rep. Janel Brandtjen and Thienesville Village President Van Mobley in the 8th Senate District primary. He advances to face Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin in the April 4 general election. The winner will get the seat.
Knodl was first elected to the Assembly in 2008. He served as assistant majority leader in 2011 and 2015 and as the majority caucus chair in 2017 and 2019.
His win ends Brandtjen’s attempt to revive a political career that came crashing down in November 2022 when Assembly Republicans banned her from their caucus.
Brandtjen spent the previous two years loudly touting baseless conspiracy theories that President Joe Biden lost Wisconsin. She drew praise from Trump for pushing Speaker Robin Vos to do more to overturn the results and name Trump the winner.
The rift between her and Vos grew and she threw her support behind Vos’ primary opponent in 2022. Vos survived reelection and Assembly Republicans punished Brandtjen for her disloyalty by barring her from their caucus in November.
The 8th Senate District seat came open in November after longtime Republican incumbent Alberta Darling chose to retire. Gov. Tony Evers scheduled a special election to fill the slot to coincide with the state’s spring Supreme Court election.
A Republican victory in April would give Senate Republicans a two-thirds majority, which would be enough votes to override gubernatorial vetoes, although any such efforts would be symbolic at best since an override would also need a two-thirds vote in the Assembly, where Republicans are two seats short of the 66 needed.
But under the Wisconsin Constitution, a two-thirds Senate majority would give Republicans enough votes to convict “civil officers” in impeachment trials. The state constitution doesn’t define civil officers. The state Supreme Court has ruled that the term doesn’t include legislators, but the constitution makes specific mention of the governor as an impeachable officer.