Conspiracy theorist seeks Wisconsin state Senate nomination

State Rep. Janel Brandtjen is vying in the Republican primary to represent the 8th Senate District, which encompasses portions of Milwaukee’s northern suburbs.
Rep. Janel Brandtjen
Rep. Janel Brandtjen(Wisconsin State Legislature)
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 10:41 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin state representative who touted election conspiracy theories so forcefully that her fellow Republicans banned her from their caucus is looking to rebuild her political career starting with Tuesday’s primary for an open state Senate seat.

State Rep. Janel Brandtjen is vying with state Rep. Dan Knodl and Thienesville Village President Van Mobley in the Republican primary to represent the 8th Senate District, which encompasses portions of Milwaukee’s northern suburbs. The primary winner will advance to face Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin in the April 4 general election.

The seat came open in November after longtime Republican incumbent Alberta Darling decided to retire. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers scheduled a special election to fill the spot to coincide with the state’s spring state Supreme Court election.

Brandtjen has spent the last two years loudly promoting unfounded conspiracy theories that President Joe Biden lost Wisconsin in 2020. She earned praise from former President Donald Trump for trying to get Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to overturn Biden’s 21,000-vote win in the battleground state.

Vos refused, and Brandtjen grew so angry with him that she threw her support behind his primary opponent last summer. Vos survived reelection and Assembly GOP leaders retaliated against Brandtjen by banning her from their caucus. Marginalized by her own party, she decided in December to run for Darling’s seat in the state Senate.

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.