GOP state Sen. Alberta Darling, who led the powerful Joint Finance Committee for a record-tying six terms, announced today she will retire Dec. 1 after 32 years in the Legislature.

Her departure will open up a vacancy in her strongly GOP seat representing the Milwaukee suburbs.

Darling, 78, didn’t cite a reason in her news release for her decision to retire in the middle of her eighth term in the Senate. She was first elected to the Assembly in a May 1990 special election and then won the Senate seat in 1992.

In her resignation letter to Senate President Chris Kapenga, Darling wrote, “Serving requires many sacrifices and I look forward to giving family and friends my full attention.”

Darling, R-River Hills, first co-chaired JFC in the 2003 session. She then returned to the co-chair’s spot in the 2011 session and held the gavel for five straight sessions. That was interrupted briefly by Dems winning control of the state Senate following the 2012 recall elections.

“As the longest-serving woman to co-chair the Joint Committee on Finance, I made sure each and every dollar was spent prudently knowing this money comes from the hardworking people of our state,” said Darling, the first woman to serve as co-chair from the state Senate in the committee’s history.

Darling was the target of a 2011 recall over former Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10, beating back the challenge by nearly 7 points. Dems also targeted her in the 2020 elections, but she won with more than 54 percent of the vote even as Donald Trump only received 167 more votes in the district than Joe Biden.

Republicans made the seat more Republican under the maps they drew and the state Supreme Court put in place this spring. According to Marquette University researcher John Johnson, it’s now a more than 56 percent GOP seat, based on top-of-the-ticket results in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and the 2018 guv contest. That’s about 2.5 points more Republican than it had been.

Caucuses often turn to incumbent state reps for special elections in the Senate. Republicans Janel Brandtjen, of Menomonee Falls, and Dan Knodl, of Germantown, this fall both won reelection to their Assembly seats that are part of the Senate district, as did Dem Deb Andraca, of Whitefish Bay.

Knodl, first elected to the Assembly in 2008, said he is giving serious consideration to a bid. He retired from his business in May and said he’ll consider how a Senate bid fits into his post-retirement plans.

“This just puts a different focus on what the future might be or how long,” Knodl said in a phone interview. “Those are just factors you have to take into consideration.”

Andraca won her second term in the Assembly earlier this month.

“I think it’s important to show gratitude for the race I just won before jumping into anything new,” she wrote in a text message to WisPolitics.com. “I will be spending the holiday focusing on things like cranberries, not campaigns.”

Republicans were poised to begin the new legislative session with a veto-proof majority of 22-11, but will now be at 21-11 come January.

See the release:
https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/sen-darling-to-retire

See the resignation letter:
https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/221123Darling.pdf

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