PHOENIX (AP) — The governor of Arizona announced Tuesday that he will appoint former Sen. Jon Kyl to fill the late Sen. John McCain’s seat in the U.S. Senate.
Gov. Doug Ducey made the announcement on Twitter minutes before a scheduled news conference.
Kyl, a Republican, is currently shepherding Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kyl’s appointment may make it possible for him to vote for the nomination.
Ducey, also a Republican, added the hashtag #KavanaughConfirmation to his announcement.
Ducey says Kyl has committed to serve through the end of this year and the governor hopes he will serve longer.
Either way, Kyle is expected to be a placeholder, not running in 2020, when voters will get to decide who fills the remainder of McCain’s seat through 2022. Then the seat will be up again for a full six-year term.
Kyl, an experienced foreign policy hand, will be entering a narrowly divided Senate where Republicans could gain or lose seats in November.
The GOP is hoping he’ll be a more reliable partisan vote than McCain, whose opposition to a partial repeal of President 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 Trump made his re-election impossible.
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.
Filling McCain’s seat marks a turning point in Arizona political history. That seat in particular 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 he had served in the House of Representatives.
The choice will also have political consequences for 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.
Arizona law requires the governor to appoint a member of the same political party to fill a seat opened by the departure of a senator.
McCain’s office said an estimated 15,000 people came to see the late senator as he lay in state in the Arizona state Capitol for a public viewing several days after his death.
Nearly 3,500 people gathered at the North Phoenix Baptist Church the following day for a memorial service where former Vice President Joe Biden