clock menu more-arrow no yes

Former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl will replace John McCain in the Senate

Kyl, a Republican, has said he won’t run for the seat in 2020.

Border Patrol Mourns Slain Agent At Memorial Service
John Kyl at a memorial service for Border Patrol agent Brian Terry on January 21, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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.

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.

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).