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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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GOP captures partial supermajority as Knodl wins tight 8th Senate District race

The special election determined who would fill a vacant seat in the state Senate previously held by the GOP.

Republican state Rep. Dan Knodl narrowly defeated Democratic attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin in a special election Tuesday for an open seat in Wisconsin’s 8th Senate District, handing Republicans a powerful supermajority in the state Senate.

The Associated Press called the race for Knodl Monday morning. With 99% of the vote reporting, Knodl led 50.9% to Sinykin’s 49.1%, a margin of 1,296 votes. His victory swung the Senate back to a two-thirds Republican majority, giving GOP lawmakers the ability to remove any state officials impeached by the Assembly.

Previously held by Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, the 8th Senate District opened an opportunity for either party to sway the state Legislature’s balance of power outside regular biennial elections. Gov. Tony Evers called for a special election to fill the vacant seat after Darling retired in December 2022. 

Knodl said he would continue Darling’s “incredible legacy” in a Facebook post early Monday morning. 

“This campaign has always been about focusing on the issues, like rising prices, crime and education,” Knodl wrote. “I am incredibly grateful to the voters of the 8th Senate District for placing their trust in me to represent them in the [Senate].”

Sinykin called Knodl early Wednesday to concede the race, according to a statement from her campaign.

“In just four short months, we put together a campaign that came within two points of flipping a district that was unfairly gerrymandered to elect Republicans in every election,” Sinykin said. “The fight to continue moving Wisconsin forward is not over, and I look forward to continuing to advocate for a brighter and fairer future for Wisconsin.”

Located in the southeast region of the state just north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s 8th Senate District has elected Republicans for decades. 

However, Democrats have had growing support in the district. Darling won the district by 8.5 points in 2020, compared to Knodl’s narrow 1.8-point victory Wednesday.

Republicans have controlled both houses of the Legislature for the past decade despite having larger wins in statewide elections. During that period, the party has had Republican-leaning voting maps that many see as “incredibly gerrymandered,’’ according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

The Wisconsin State Constitution allows the Senate to remove elected officials for corrupt conduct or crimes and misdemeanors. But Knodl said last week he would also “certainly consider” using the power to remove lawmakers “who have failed” at their jobs, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

He specifically mentioned newly elected state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, who defeated Republican nominee Dan Kelly for the vacant seat on the court late Tuesday.

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However, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) told reporters Wednesday he had no plans to remove any state officials, including Protasiewicz, according to the Journal Sentinel.

"To impeach someone, they would need to do something very serious, so no, we are not looking to start the impeachment process as a regular occurring event in Wisconsin,” LeMahieu told WISN-TV.

Knodl will leave his seat in the Assembly to assume his new role. Republicans will still hold a sizable 64-35 majority in the Assembly.

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