Who Will Finish McCain’s Senate Term? [VIDEO]

Who Will Finish McCain’s Senate Term? [VIDEO]

Who Will Finish McCain’s Senate Term? [VIDEO]

As tributes and eulogies and stories continue to appear regarding the passing of Senator John McCain, the citizens of Arizona are faced with a practical issue. McCain had already announced that he would not run for re-election, but when he passed away on Saturday, he still had four years left in his current Senate term.

It is now up to Arizona’s governor, Republican Doug Ducey, to decide who will fill the Senate seat until a special election can be held in 2020. However, he has already said that this is a decision that will not be made until after McCain’s funeral and burial.

“Out of respect for the life and legacy of Senator John McCain and his family, Governor Ducey will not be making any announcements about an appointment until after the Senator is laid to rest,” Ducey’s senior adviser Daniel Ruiz II said in a statement.

“Now is a time for remembering and honoring a consequential life well lived.”

McCain is most likely going to have two services – one in Arizona, and one in Washington D.C. It was announced that McCain will be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. The details have not been made fully public yet, but Governor Ducey did announce that McCain will be lying in state at the Arizona Capitol Building.


Under Arizona law, Ducey must select a member of the same political party to fill the seat. This is the first time in Arizona’s history that a governor will need to fill a Senate seat, and everyone is speculating on who might be chosen. Ducey himself is in the middle of a re-election campaign, so his choice is likely to be scrutinized. It’s also been reported that McCain and Ducey discussed who might fill the seat.

According to multiple reports, the short list of names who might be appointed to finish the Senate term holds few surprises.

Ducey must pick a member of the same political party as McCain, which means the seat will remain in GOP hands.

The governor has said he will not appoint himself.

Asked about potential McCain replacements, three Arizona Republicans pointed to Ducey’s chief of staff, Kirk Adams, as a leading potential choice.

Adams, a 45-year-old former state House speaker and congressional candidate, could run for re-election himself. Or he could play a role similar to former Florida Sen. George LeMieux — who then-Gov. Charlie Crist appointed, only for LeMieux to step aside two years later when Crist ran for the Senate seat — if Ducey wants to run for the Senate seat in 2020.

Republicans also pointed to Karrin Taylor Robson, an Arizona Board of Regents member and real estate developer, who is well-liked by the GOP donor community, and Eileen Klein, a chief of staff for former Gov. Jan Brewer who Ducey appointed state treasurer in April.

Another option Arizona Republicans raised includes Cindy McCain, John McCain’s wife, who is also chairwoman of her family’s beer distribution business and an advocate against human trafficking who has filled in for her husband at public events at times after his diagnosis.

Ducey could also consider former Sen. Jon Kyl, whom he has called a mentor, and former Reps. John Shadegg and Matt Salmon, who has lobbied for Arizona State University since retiring from Congress after the 2016 election.

Because the vacancy occurred after the state’s cut-off date of May 30, the special election will take place in 2020, rather than 2018.

The winner of the special election will hold the seat for the remaining two years of McCain’s term. Then, in 2022, the seat will be on the ballot for a full six-year term.

The “short list” could be any well-known and wealthy Republican in Arizona, it seems.

Regardless, the trending bet seems to be Cindy McCain, simply because there is some precedent for having the surviving spouse fill the elected seat until the special election can be held. This was actually something that gubernatorial challenger Ken Bennett raised earlier this year, and his response was to vow to NOT appoint Mrs. McCain to the Senate.


Bennett took heat for saying this at the end of May, well before McCain’s death. Will this tweet and the current circumstances now work in his favor?

I honestly think the safest and least controversial choice would be Jon Kyl, especially since he is a former U.S. senator and would not need much time to come up to speed on the current issues in the Senate. The odds are also good that Kyl, being retired, would not opt to run in the special election to fill the rest of McCain’s term.

Between McCain’s death and Jeff Flake’s approaching retirement, the names representing Arizona in the Senate are going to have a significant overhaul in the next several months. Will Governor Ducey opt for stability and continuity, which might be politically safe, or will he give someone a leg up to run as an incumbent in the 2020 special election?

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