Gov. Doug Ducey tapped former U.S. Sen Jon Kyl today to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Sen. John McCain.
Ducey’s appointment comes the same day as confirmation hearings begin for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, whom Kyl is shepherding through the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process.
An ardent supporter of Kavanaugh, it comes as no surprise that Ducey tapped someone who will vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court.
But Kyl, 76, who did not promise to stay in the Senate seat until 2020, may not serve for long after seeing through Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Over the last few months, Sen. Kyl has been working closely with the White House on the Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh,” Ducey said. “Now, Sen. Kyl can cast a vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.”
But citing Kyl’s experience, bipartisanship and 26 years in Congress, Ducey dismissed the suggestion that he only picked Kyl because he is pro-Kavanaugh.
Kyl, a lobbyist, dismissed the idea that his work will impede his ability to serve in the Senate. He will not be able to work as a lobbyist while serving as an elected official.
Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate, which means selecting a Kavanaugh supporter to replace McCain could be vital in getting the judge confirmed to the Supreme Court.
McCain did not offer Ducey any suggestions on his successor. A former McCain staffer said McCain always supported increasing diversity within Republican politics and said McCain likely would have chosen a Hispanic woman to replace him.
Ducey said he received an abundance of advice on the appointment — much of it unsolicited, the governor joked. But the best advice he received came from another governor, although he did not say whom.
“The best piece of advice I received was from another governor who said, ‘just do the right thing. Pick the best possible person, regardless of politics,’” Ducey said.
Kyl is headed to Washington, D.C. today. Ducey said he had already talked to Senate leadership about getting Kyl sworn in as soon as possible.
At a press conference announcing the appointment, Ducey praised Kyl’s experience
Kyl served as a U.S. Senator from Arizona from 1995 to 2013 and served in the U.S. House of Representatives before that. Sen. Jeff Flake, who is stepping down at the end of the year, succeeded Kyl in the Senate.
“It’s not the time for newcomers, and now is not the time for on-the-job training,” Ducey said.
McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain tweeted that Kyl is a dear friend of hers and her late husband.
“It’s a great tribute to John that (Kyl) is prepared to go back into public service to help the state of Arizona,” she McCain tweeted.
Since McCain’s death, there has been rampant speculation about whom Ducey would appoint to the vacant seat. The governor held off naming a successor for more than a week as he mourned the senator’s death both here and at memorial services in Washington, D.C.
But Ducey’s appointment of Kyl may not curtail speculation because Kyl has not promised to serve until 2020 — when the seat is scheduled to come up for election. Kyle promised Ducey he will at least serve through the end of the year.
Kyl said he accepted the appointment because he is putting country first, like McCain did so many times during his political career. But he reminded reporters that he stepped down from the Senate because he wanted to spend more time with his family and more time in Arizona, all things that could keep him from serving until 2020.
Ducey declined to speculate who he would appoint if Kyl stepped down before 2020, saying he’s still trying to convince Kyl to stay on for longer. He did, however, adamantly insist he would not appoint himself to the seat.
By law, Ducey was required to appoint a Republican successor to fill McCain’s seat, although he almost certainly would have tapped a Republican regardless.
Arizona Republicans like Flake, AZGOP Chairman Jonathan Lines and others praised Ducey’s decision to appoint Kyl. Trump chimed in, too, tweeting his support of Kyl Tuesday.
But Ducey’s gubernatorial opponent, David Garcia, criticized the governor’s pick. Garcia said he would have selected someone like Cindy McCain or former Attorney General Grant Woods, someone who was more in the mold of the late senator and who might be more willing to stand up to Trump.
“Jon Kyl has served as Brett Kavanaugh’s ‘sherpa’ through the nomination process and will undoubtedly vote for his confirmation which puts many rights we take for granted at risk, chief among them are women’s reproductive rights, civil rights, voting rights, environmental rights and workers rights,” Garcia said in a statement.