Longtime Wisconsin State Sen. Alberta Darling to retire

MADISON, Wis. — State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, announced Wednesday that she will retire from the Legislature after 32 years.

The Milwaukee-area legislator was first elected to the Assembly in a special election in 1990, then elected to the Senate in 1992.

In a letter to her Senate colleagues, Darling, 78, wrote that “serving requires many sacrifices and I look forward to giving family and friends my full attention.”

Until last year, Darling was the Senate chair of the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance. According to her office, she was the longest-serving woman to do so.

“I made sure each and every dollar was spent prudently knowing this money comes from the hardworking people of our state,” Darling said in a statement. “This was not by chance or accident. I followed the same principles my parents taught me and the same ones Wisconsin families follow every day.”

“She was really my mentor as co-chair,” said former state Rep. John Nygren, who was the co-chair from the Assembly on the committee with her.

“She really helped guide me to be successful in that role,” he added. “And you look at some of the things that we accomplished financially for the state … from a conservative perspective, she was at the table for some of the most conservative reforms in state history.”

Darling’s retirement was met with gratitude from both sides of the aisle, with Gov. Tony Evers thanking her for her time in office.

“[Senator Darling] has earned the respect of colleagues on both sides of the aisle because she’s a diligent leader who’s always carried herself with poise, class, and grace,” he said in a statement. “I’ve always appreciated her thoughtfulness in our conversations over the years.”

“Alberta has worked tirelessly to provide a voice for her district and for Southeastern Wisconsin as she championed school choice, public safety, and economic development,” said Senate President Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield. “I wish Alberta and her family the very best as she begins a new chapter.”

Darling’s retirement is effective Dec. 1, leaving her Senate seat open until it can be filled by a special election. Her retirement will also deny Republicans the supermajority they won in the chamber during this past election.

Some possibilities of candidates to run for her reliably-Republican seat could include some of the state representatives from the same district. Each Senate district is made up of three Assembly districts, which currently are held by Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls; Rep. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay; and Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown.

Nygren said he could imagine a local official jumping in the race as well.

“I think that’s normally what happens is the Senate Committees look to the sitting Assembly folks, because they’ve got at least the name ID in 1/3 of that district,” he said. “But I also think this is an area where you might see some folks with interest from outside current politics, or at least the state Legislature.”