Gov. Doug Ducey has appointed Martha McSally to fill the U.S. Senate seat that Sen. Jon Kyl will vacate at the end of the year.
The announcement from the Governor’s Office Tuesday sets up a unique dynamic in which Arizona will be represented in the Senate by former foes.
McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema will serve alongside each other after facing off in one of the most contentious and expensive Senate races in Arizona’s history.
In a statement, Ducey praised McSally’s dedication to serving her country, referencing her 26 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and her multiple deployments to the Middle East and Afghanistan. He also praised McSally for representing Arizona in Congress for the past four years.
“Martha [McSally] is uniquely qualified to step up and fight for Arizona’s interests in the U.S. Senate,” Ducey said. “I thank her for taking on this significant responsibility and look forward to working with her and Senator-Elect Sinema to get positive things done.”
Ducey’s appointment of McSally comes mere days after Kyl tendered his resignation last week. The governor appointed Kyl in September to fill the seat previously held by the late Sen. John McCain.
Although Kyl could have held the seat until a special election is held in 2020, he promised to serve only through the end of the year.
McSally said she is eager to get to work with Sinema, with all signs indicating that she will not let the contentious Senate race of the past keep them from working together.
“Over the last year, I’ve traveled across this great state, meeting with countless Arizonans, and listening to them,” McSally said in a statement. “I’ve heard about the challenges they face and the hopes they have for the future – and I’ve learned a lot. I am humbled and grateful to have this opportunity to serve and be a voice for all Arizonans.”
In determining who to appoint to replace Kyl, Ducey was thinking long term. More specifically, he was looking for a Republican who could run a strong campaign in two years and possibly again in 2022, at the conclusion of what would have been McCain’s six-year term.
Ducey’s appointment of McSally sets her up as the woman to beat in the 2020 special election, should she decide to run. With her national name recognition and the $1 million in campaign funds left over from her Senate run this year, McSally could be a strong contender in Arizona’s next Senate race.
She will also have the benefit of being the incumbent, should she seek to extend her Senate tenure.
McSally put up a strong fight in the November election Sinema won by about 55,000 votes.
Ducey faced outside pressure to appoint McSally. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lobbied the governor to appoint the two-term congresswoman from Tucson who was the country’s first female combat pilot.
Both McSally and Sinema are breaking barriers in the Senate. Before this year, Arizona had never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate. Now, McSally becomes the first woman appointed to a Senate seat from Arizona while Sinema holds the title of the first elected woman senator from Arizona.
But if McSally does decide to run in 2020, she won’t be able to get too comfortable in the Senate because the 2020 race will start ramping up almost immediately as Democrats are already lining up to jump into the race.
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has expressed interest in running in 2020, as has former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, who recently switched parties from Republican to Democrat. Mark Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords may also jump into the race.
Ducey and McSally will hold a joint press conference sometime today to discuss the appointment. Details of when and where the press conference will be held have not yet been announced.