Knodl to win tight race for Senate seat, securing Republican supermajority
Rep. Dan Knodl declares victory at his election night watch party in Germantown. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)
Update: Jodi Habush Sinykin has conceded the race in the 8th Senate district to Rep. Dan Knodl. “I am incredibly proud of this campaign, which from day one was focused on bringing people together and authentically representing the 8th Senate District,” Habush Sinykin said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we fell just shy of bringing home a victory for progress and fair representation, and I have called Rep. Knodl to concede the race.”
Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) is poised to beat Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin in a tight race for Wisconsin’s 8th Senate district, which represents the northern Milwaukee suburbs and parts of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington — or “WOW” — counties.
Senate Republicans finally claim a 22-member, two-thirds supermajority with the win, which gives them the power to impeach and remove “civil officers” and to fast track bills without Democrat input. Knodl will succeed Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), who retired in December after holding the seat for 30 years.
“We have a win,” Knodl said, declaring victory at around 11:30 p.m. while surrounded by supporters at Bub’s Irish Bar in Germantown. The official results weren’t yet called, but Knodl said outstanding votes in Lisbon would secure the win for him.
“I hope to carry on the good work that [Darling] has done for over 30 years,” Knodl said. “If I do that, I’m going to be in a very good position with these new constituents in the 8th Senate district going forward, so it’s a good day and I look forward to moving into the state Senate”
With 99% of votes counted at around 12:30 a.m, Knodl had 50.9% of the vote and Habush Sinykin had 49.1%.
Habush Sinykin, an environmental lawyer, did not concede Tuesday night.
Knodl, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2008, said “coattails” from the state Supreme Court election and abortion were likely reasons that the race for the traditionally Republican district was so close.
Knodl will be the 22nd Republican senator, securing a supermajority in half of the Legislature.
Either party holding a two-thirds majority in Wisconsin’s Legislature is rare, according to Rick Champagne, of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. This will be the first time Senate Republicans have held a supermajority for a legislative session since 1969. The November 2022 election gave the Republicans 22 seats in the Senate effective with the new term starting in January 2023, but Darling’s resignation in December left them one seat short of that goal by the time lawmakers were sworn in.
The supermajority gives Republicans the power to impeach and convict “civil officer” unilaterally. In order for an impeachment to move forward, a majority of members elected in the Assembly must vote to impeach a civil officer. Impeachment can be brought for “corrupt conduct in office or for the commission of a crime or misdemeanor,” according to a Wisocnsin Legislative Council memo. Assembly Republicans currently hold a 64-member majority. Two-thirds of the Senate would need to vote to convict a “civil officer,” a term that hasn’t been defined in state law.
There’s only been one impeachment in Wisconsin history. Judge Levi Hubbell was impeached by the Assembly in 1853, but wasn’t convicted by the Senate.
The potential for impeachment became a major point of contention in the race following comments from Knodl, who appeared open to using the impeachment power. In the days leading up to the election, Knodl said he would “certainly consider” launching impeachment efforts against Judge Janet Protaciewitz, who won election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court against conservative Dan Kelly on Tuesday, for her work as a Milwaukee County judge.
“Republicans would like to have 22 senators, and it would give us some authority that just hasn’t been there for years, but that’s in our Wisconsin Constitution under Article 7,” Knodl said. “To me, it’s just a check.”
After declaring victory Tuesday night, Knodl said that there was “nobody on a list or any proceedings that are imminent.”
Knodl supporters were excited about the prospect of Republicans consolidating their power.
“We have overwhelmingly Republican control of our Senate and house but not enough to get anything accomplished with a Democratic governor,” Barb Schaefer, a resident of the Town of Erin, said. “So it’s a very important race in that if we can make that next step and have the majority that will allow us to do more, that’s a huge plus.”
Schaefer said she supports Knodl because he is a “proven conservative” and supports people’s rights and freedoms.
Apart from impeachment proceedings, Republicans could also use the two-thirds majority to fast track bills by suspending legislative rules. Champagne said in an email that a supermajority could, in theory, suspend the legislative rules and withdraw bills from committee and take them up immediately, rather than needing to put them on the calendar.
Habush Sinkykin, who focused much of her campaign on abortion and reproductive rights issues, said prior to the close of polls that she knew the race would be an uphill battle, but that Knodl winning would signify that gerrymandering continues to play a role in Wisconsin politics.
“It demonstrates that the system is broken, that the gerrymandering that has been accomplished that has gone up before the United States Supreme Court…, that puts Wisconsin tied dead last in the entire country with Texas as the most gerrymandered state in the nation, is truly silencing the will of the people,” Habush Sinykin said at a election night party Libby Montana Bar & Grill.
She said she hopes that a Knodl victory would be a “wake up call” for Wisconsin.
Knodl focused on issues like taxes and crime throughout the campaign. He said he plans to continue much of the work that he started in the Assembly.
“It’s time to get to work,” Knodl said. “I already have bills that have been introduced in the state Assembly. We’ll get those queued up and move them in any fashion that we can through the Assembly or the Senate, and then we’ll get onto the budget process and craft a budget.”
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