Former Sen. Jon Kyl to fill McCain Senate seat

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced John McCain's replacement, ex-Sen. Jon Kyl, who has agreed to serve at least through the current term in Congress. Senator Kyl has been described as a "safe pick" who will help Republicans confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Ross D. Franklin/AP
Former Sen. Jon Kyl speaks about his appointment by Gov. Doug Ducey to fill McCain's Senate seat at a news conference in Phoenix on Sept. 4, 2018.

Prolonging the uncertainty over who will fill the late John McCain's US Senate seat, the governor of Arizona on Tuesday announced the appointment of former Sen. Jon Kyl but said he has only committed to serve until the end of the year.

Senator Kyl, a Republican who retired from the Senate in 2012 to spend more time with his family, is currently shepherding President Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Kyl's appointment will make it possible for him to vote for the nomination.

But it's unclear what more Kyl, 76, will do in Washington. He said he agreed to serve briefly out of a "sense of duty" and will not run for the seat in 2020, when Arizona voters will decide who fills the seat through 2022. The seat will then be up again for a full six-year term.

Gov. Doug Ducey, also a Republican, said Kyl was "the best possible person, regardless of politics" for the job, and he hopes Kyl serves past the end of the year.

If Kyl does leave the Senate after the end of the current congressional term next Jan. 3, Arizona's governor can appoint another senator for the remaining year. By state law the senator will have to be a member of the same party as the departing one, in this case the GOP.

For now, Kyl will pad Republicans' margin in the narrowly divided Senate. They hold a 51-49 majority but that dwindled to a single vote while McCain stayed in Arizona for much of this year being treated for the brain cancer that killed him on Aug. 25.

The GOP is hoping Kyl will be a more reliable partisan vote than McCain, whose opposition to a partial repeal of former President Barack Obama's health care law pitched the party into turmoil last year.

Kyl is well-respected in Arizona and has been able to avoid many of the battles with activists that complicated McCain's career and that of the state's other senator, Jeff Flake, who is retiring because his feud with Mr. Trump made his re-election impossible.

Kyl's entire career in Washington overlapped with McCain's, and he served with the state's senior senator for three terms before stepping down. Kyl carved out a profile as a reliable conservative vote and a foreign policy expert.

McCain's widow, Cindy, tweeted: "Jon Kyl is a dear friend of mine and John's. It's a great tribute to John that he is prepared to go back into public service to help the state of Arizona."

Doug Cole, a veteran Republican consultant and former McCain aide, said Kyl was a good, safe pick.

"I think McCain would be very happy with the pick. Honors his legacy while putting some major horsepower for Arizona in the seat, at least for now," he said.

An attorney, Kyl speaks in a formal, reserved manner that is a sharp contrast to Trump, and he belongs to an older, less populist vanguard of the GOP. At a news conference where he was introduced as McCain's replacement, Kyl said in a response to a question that he's only met Trump once, though he noted he is working for the White House by serving as Mr. Kavanaugh's so-called "sherpa."

With a nod toward McCain, Kyl said the president's "desire to jump into the middle of or be in the middle of a fight – and by the way that reminds me of somebody – can be detrimental in the end to what he's trying to achieve."

The unusual timing of Kyl's appointment could work out for another Arizona Republican who wants to become a US senator – Rep. Martha McSally.

She's currently locked in a tough campaign against Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema for the seat Senator Flake is vacating. Should she lose, Representative McSally – a former Air Force colonel who once worked on Kyl's staff – could be appointed to the McCain seat if Kyl vacates it in January.

Filling McCain's seat marks a turning point in Arizona political history. The seat has been held by two men who were heralded as giants of the Senate: McCain took the seat once held by Sen. Barry Goldwater after McCain had served in the House of Representatives.

The choice of Kyl will also have political consequences for Governor Ducey. He's up for re-election this November against Democratic challenger David Garcia.

For Republican voters who are on the fence about Ducey, a choice they dislike could cause them to withdraw their support for the incumbent or stay home on Election Day.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Former Sen. Jon Kyl to fill McCain Senate seat
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today