MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican state Rep. Dan Knodl defeated a Democratic attorney to win an open Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election, creating a GOP supermajority in the chamber that could be used to impeach Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and other office holders.
Knodl defeated Jodi Habush Sinykin in the 8th District race. The seat represents Milwaukee’s northern suburbs and has leaned red for years. It came open after longtime Republican incumbent Alberta Darling decided to retire in November. Evers called a special election to fill the position.
“This campaign has always been about focusing on the issues, like rising prices, crime, and education, and I am incredibly grateful to the voters of the 8th Senate District for placing their trust in me to represent them in the Wisconsin State Senate,” Knodl said in a statement Wednesday.
“Whether you voted for me or my opponent, I intend to resolutely and faithfully represent all of my constituents,” he said.
Knodl’s victory gives Senate Republicans 22 votes in the 33-seat chamber. That’s enough to override a gubernatorial veto in that house. A successful override takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate and Assembly, however, and Assembly Republicans remain two seats shy of the 66 they need.
Knodl’s win also gives Senate Republicans enough votes to convict a civil officer, including the governor, other constitutional officers such as the attorney general and judges in impeachment trials. Knodl has said he probably would not support an attempt to impeach Evers.
The state constitution says civil officers can be impeached, including the governor, lieutenant governor and judges. A February analysis from the Legislative Reference Bureau concluded that other constitutional officers such as the attorney general and the state schools superintendent can be impeached as well.
Knodl has said he’s not interested in impeaching Evers, saying he has been able to work with the governor. But he said he wants to impeach Milwaukee judges for being too lenient on criminal defendants. That list could include Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz, he said. She won Tuesday’s election to the Supreme Court and will take the seat in August.
Knodl also has his sights set on Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chilsholm. Republicans have criticized the Democratic prosecutor for years as too soft on crime. They’ve called for his job since he acknowledged his office’s bail request for Darrell Brooks Jr. was far too low.
Chisholm’s office requested a judge set bail at $1,000 for Brooks after he allegedly tried to run over his ex-girlfriend with his SUV in November 2021. The judge complied. Brooks posted the money and was released from jail. Days later he drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, a Republican stronghold. Six people were killed and dozens more were hurt.
Chisholm has said an assistant prosecutor handling Brooks’ initial case never had access to his risk assessment and shouldn’t have asked for such a low bail amount.
Habush Sinykin, who holds a law degree from Harvard, worked as an attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates. She was a key litigator in a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin wolf hunters’ right to use dogs. An appeals court ultimately rejected MEA’s arguments in 2014.
She said she’s running for the Senate to stop Knodl from winning the seat, saying it’s crucial that checks on the Legislature’s power remain in place.