John Kyl — who served three terms in the Senate as an Arizona Republican — is filling the seat of the late Sen. John McCain, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday. The move keeps McCain’s seat safely in Republican hands at least until the 2020 special election to choose a successor to McCain, who died on August 25.
I am deeply grateful to Senator Kyl for agreeing to succeed his friend and colleague of so many years. Every single day that Jon Kyl represents #Arizona in the U.S. Senate is a day our state is well-served. #KylforAZ #KavanaughConfirmation https://t.co/e6zHvEOk5O— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) September 4, 2018
Ducey, a Republican, made the formal announcement this afternoon at a press conference in Phoenix.
Kyl is a well-known face on Capitol Hill. He is a powerful former senator who served alongside McCain for nearly two decades, and retired in 2013. He hasn’t been absent from politics since retiring: As a lobbyist at Covington & Burling, Kyl has been helping shepherd President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through a contentious confirmation process (Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing started today). He filled a similar role during the confirmation process for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Once sworn in — which could happen as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday — Kyl will be able to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. That vote of the full Senate is supposed to happen at the end of the month.
The former senator is well-liked and respected among Republicans, but by helping out with the Sessions and Kavanaugh confirmation processes, he is popular among Trump’s inner circle as well. Once sworn in this week, Kyl will likely only serve two years, until the special election to fill McCain’s seat in 2020.
.@dougducey has tapped JON KYL to fill the McCain seat, per multiple Republicans.— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) September 4, 2018
Gets AZ some stature for Kavanaugh hearings. But it's just short-term: Kyl has only committed to serve thru this Congress. He may stay till '20 but will NOT run againhttps://t.co/qKZZ9b5qcF
Kyl has shown little appetite for running for the Senate seat in 2020 or serving a longer term, according to a report from the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin. That means that Democrats will have more of a shot at flipping the seat in two years time, something they would like to do badly. There is already a competitive race between Reps. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for the open Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
Kyl would be the 199th senator appointed to the office since 1913, per NBC’s Carrie Dann. He’d join 11 appointed senators who are currently serving. (The most recent is Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, who was appointed to replace Thad Cochran earlier this year and is currently running in 2018.)
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) was appointed most recently before Kyl. The most recent appointment was Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS).