Brandtjen, Leading Election Denier, Will Run for Open Senate Seat
Rep. Janel Brandtjen, kicked out of the Assembly GOP, wants to succeed Alberta Darling.
It’s official. The Republican primary for the open state senate seat created by Alberta Darling‘s retirement will have a very competitive primary, one that could get nasty.
State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), who was kicked out of the Assembly GOP caucus in mid-November by fellow Republicans who said they lost trust in her, has announced she will be running for the Senate seat. “After long hours of consulting with my family, friends and countless political allies, I have decided that the best place for me to continue to represent the people of Wisconsin would be in the Senate,” Brandtjen said in a statement.
She will face two other candidates in the primary: state Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) and Robert Albrightson, a Republican from Brown Deer. This will pit Brandtjen, a 2020 election denier and fervent backer of Donald Trump, against Knodl, who is likely to be back by most of the state’s Republican leadership. While both represent a third of the senate district as Assembly representatives, Brandtjen probably has more name recognition, given her highly publicized attacks on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and state election officials.
Vos had appointed Brandtjen the chair of the Assembly elections committee in 2021, and she proceeded to invite numerous 2020 election conspiracy theorists to testify at the state Capitol, where they accused state election officials of corruption without providing evidence. Brandtjen led calls to decertify the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin and has been one of the most frequent and vocal critics of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Brandtjen, in turn, was endorsed by Trump in her reelection win this year. This eventually put her at odds with Vos, who repeatedly said that under the law the 2020 election could not be decertified.
The senate seat leans Republican and the GOP needs to win it to retain the supermajority in the Senate it won in the November primary. The party’s gerrymandered map, originally created in 2011 and largely retained under a state Supreme Court decision, has helped make that supermajority possible.
Democrats had hoped Rep. Deb Andraca (D- Whitefish Bay), the third state representative in this senate district, would run for the open seat, but she has declined to do so. No Democrat has announced for the seat.
Gov. Tony Evers has recently announced that the dates for the special election will coincide with those for the spring elections, with the primary on February 21 and the general election on April 4. That will save the taxpayers money as a special election on different dates would cost more to hold. But Evers may have also decided Democrats would do better in that senate district with the likely higher turnout of a race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court atop the ballot.