Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will be tasked with appointing a successor to John McCain, the six-term Republican senator who died Saturday at age 81.
As McCain battled brain cancer, Ducey, a Republican, did not speculate publicly about who he might tap to replace him. Since McCain died after the deadline to file for this November’s election, most close observers have concluded that the new senator will not face voters until the 2020 general election.
Republicans in the state have privately discussed a long list of potential appointees in recent months, including McCain’s wife, Cindy; Ducey’s chief of staff, Kirk Adams; State Treasurer Eileen Klein; former congressman John Shadegg; and former U.S. senator Jon Kyl. Most recently, Kyl has been in Washington helping Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh navigate the Senate confirmation process.
Arizona law says the appointee must be from the same party as the person vacating the seat.
A Republican strategist familiar with the governor’s thinking told The Washington Post earlier this year that Ducey would want someone who could function in the post and keep the job.
Ducey is up for reelection this year. His spokesman has said he would not appoint himself to the Senate seat.
Republicans are defending a narrow, 51 to 49 Senate majority in this year’s midterm elections. Uncertainty about McCain’s health this year caused party leaders to brace for the possibility of having to defend his seat in November.
But when the May 30 deadline to qualify for the ballot came and went without McCain’s seat becoming vacant, worries about having to protect another seat from Democrats faded.
In addition to empowering the governor to appoint a near-term successor, state law says the vacancy shall be filled “at the next general election.” Many Republicans believe that now means the election in 2020, given that this year’s filing deadline has passed.
No clear Republican successor to McCain has emerged, and party power brokers have worried for months about the lack of a consensus choice
McCain’s death means that both senators who represented Arizona at the beginning of 2017 will no longer be in Congress in 2019. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is retiring at the end of the year.
The Arizona primary is Tuesday, with Rep. Martha McSally, former state senator Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio battling for the Republican nomination. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is the likely Democratic nominee.