And maybe not even that long, according to the Arizona Republic. Appointing Jon Kyle to fill the open seat left by the death of John McCain is a smart move if Doug Ducey wants to avoid an intra-party split in the short run. But that might be shorter than even Ducey would like:
Jon Kyl, once one of the most powerful Republicans in the U.S. Senate, will return to Capitol Hill to succeed the late Sen. John McCain, The Arizona Republic has learned.
Gov. Doug Ducey is scheduled to unveil the 76-year-old as McCain’s successor at a 10 a.m. news conference at the Arizona Capitol, after notifying McCain’s wife, Cindy, and other key political figures of his decision.
Kyl, who served alongside McCain during his 18 years in the U.S. Senate, will fly to Washington, D.C., following Ducey’s announcement. He retired in 2013 after rising to become the second-highest-ranking Republican senator.
Kyl has agreed to serve at least through the end of the year, a representative for Ducey said. If he opts to step down after the end of the session, the Republican governor would be required to appoint another replacement, the aide said.
We’ll get back to timing in a moment. Kyl immediately picked up one very important endorsement, and a confirmation of the Republic’s report:
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.
— Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) September 4, 2018
Needless to say, that will be the most important endorsement for Ducey. Arizonans would want to know that the McCains didn’t feel run over by Ducey. Also, Kyle is one of the few on the list provided earlier by the Republic who can still bridge the divide between the Trumpian populists and the conservative ideologues. Besides Cindy McCain, the late senator’s wife, those included:
- Kirk Adams, Ducey’s chief of staff who runs the governor’s day-to-day operations.
- Barbara Barrett, a business executive and the first Republican woman to run for governor in Arizona.
- Michael Bidwill, the president of the Arizona Cardinals and longtime Ducey ally who went to prep school with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
- Jon Kyl, a former three-term senator and mentor to Ducey.
- Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, the state’s military commander as the Adjutant General and the director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.
- Eileen Klein, the former president of the Arizona Board of Regents whom Ducey appointed as state treasurer in April.
- Former congressmen John Shadegg and Matt Salmon.
It was quite a list, with Adams being the only obviously self-serving selection. However, most of the candidates were largely unknown quantities, except for Shadegg and Salmon. Kyl has a longer track record than either, plus he’s been helping out the White House on its Supreme Court nominations. At 76, Kyl’s not too old for a return to office, either, at least in the US Senate.
So why all the talk about leaving after four months on the job? The appointment would allow Kyl to serve until 2020, when Arizona will hold a special election to fill the remaining two years on McCain’s term. If he leaves in January, Ducey will have to appoint another person to the US Senate for less than two years, but perhaps the choice will be less fraught at that time, too. Either Ducey can circle back around to Cindy McCain, or there will be less emotional resonance with such a choice and he will feel free to name someone else off the list. And if Ducey wanted to name Cindy McCain (or Meghan, for that matter), the time for that would be now, not four months from now. A second appointment would likely be someone else on the list — and likely someone who wasn’t particularly palatable for this moment.
Ducey will hold a press conference at 1 pm ET to announce the decision. Perhaps he will discuss Kyl’s commitment to the job at that time too. One thing’s for sure: Mitch McConnell will be delighted to see Kyl back in the chamber in time for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote.
Update: Interesting eight-dimensional-chess reading from Josh Kraushaar:
Some tea leaf reading: Perhaps Kyl said he's only going to serve for one year as an insurance policy for if McSally loses in November.
She'd then be the favorite for another vacancy, and would start out as the fave in the primary. https://t.co/eNR8TpuLBW
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) September 4, 2018
McSally’s in good position to win in November, though; Republicans outvoted Democrats in the primaries, 651K to 505K.
Update: Outgoing Senator Jeff Flake calls Kyl the “perfect guy” to replace McCain:
Over chants against Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Jeff Flake says Jon Kyl is the "perfect guy" to succeed John McCain.
— ABC News (@ABC) September 4, 2018
Update: Definitely a caretaker and not a comeback, Kyl says:
Kyl: "I do know I will not seek this seat in 2020." Unclear if he serves past 1/19 (whether Ducey wins reelect may be a factor)
— Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) September 4, 2018
That also isn’t surprising. Kyl left of his own accord six years ago, and if he wanted to return to the Senate, he could have run for his old seat after Flake’s retirement. If Ducey loses, though, he’ll be around until 2020 regardless of what happens with McSally.