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Arizona governor faces task of making appointment to Sen. McCain's seat until 2020 special election

Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who died Saturday, and ranking member of the committee Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) are shown listening to testimony during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on October 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey faces the task of appointing a successor for Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday. McCain, remembered by many as a ‘maverick’ Republican, held his seat in the U.S. Senate for nearly 32 years.

What are the options?

Under Arizona law, Ducey, a Republican, can appoint someone fill the Senate vacancy for the next two years, until a special election in 2020 to decide the right to complete the final years of McCain’s term. In 2022, the seat will be up again for a full six-year term.

According to state law, the appointee must be from McCain's party.

In recent months, the governor has declined to say – citing respect for McCain and his family – which Republican he might appoint to McCain’s seat.

In a statement published Sunday by the Arizona Republic, Ducey's senior adviser Daniel Ruiz II indicated that the governor will not make any announcements about an appointment until after McCain's burial.

On Saturday, Ducey released a lengthy statement honoring McCain as an “American hero” and “icon.”

“Here at home, we were most proud to call him a fellow Arizonan,” Ducey stated. “Like so many of us, he was not born here, but his spirit, service and fierce independence shaped the state with which he became synonymous.”

What are the possibilities?

Cindy McCain, the senator’s wife, is viewed as a likely appointee, Politico reported. In May, Ducey and his wife spent time with the McCains and that led to speculation about her possible appointment.

Other potential appointees are Kirk Adams, the governor’s chief of staff; former state lawmaker Barbara Barrett, a businesswoman and former gubernatorial candidate; and former Sen. Jon Kyl, who retired from the Senate in 2013, the Arizona Republic reported. Added to that list are former Reps. Matt Salmon and John Shadegg; Karrin Taylor Robson, a state board of regents member; and Eileen Klein, the state treasurer.

Ducey is seeking re-election this fall and has ruled out appointing himself to McCain's seat.

Speculation about a potential replacements have been met with criticism from Ducey and his office multiple times this year. Ducey has also made it clear that people who are actively campaigning for the appointment will not be considered.

“To the politicians out there that have been openly lobbying for this position, they've basically disqualified themselves by showing their true character,” Ducey said in December. His statement to a local radio station came after Rep. Paul Gosar’s chief of staff sent a text to a Ducey member to indicate interest in a potential appointment, according to published reports.

During McCain’s battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer, the topic of his possible replacement was generally considered taboo in both Arizona and Washington.

Former Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett, who is challenging Ducey in next week’s gubernatorial primary, pledged on social media earlier this year that he would not appoint McCain’s wife to the seat. Ducey at the time called Bennett’s comments “indecent" and "embarrassing,” according to reports.

Still, Bennett has repeatedly raised the topic. On Saturday morning, prior to the announcement of McCain’s death, Bennett tweeted that Ducey had still not ruled out Cindy McCain for the appointment. Bennett called that a “lack of leadership.”

One last thing…
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