When a U.S. senator leaves office before the end of his or her term, what happens?
William Flannigan, azcentral

Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday is expected to reveal his choice for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s successor during a 10 a.m. press conference at the Arizona Capitol.

The nationally anticipated appointment is arguably the most consequential of Ducey’s political career, given McCain’s iconic status and the contentious decisions awaiting his replacement in Washington, D.C.

The holiday weekend was dominated by rampant speculation over whom Ducey would name and how quickly he would do it. The timing of the press conference — just two days after Ducey returned from McCain’s national memorial services — suggests the governor likely had plans in place early.

UPDATE: Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl will be John McCain’s successor in the U.S. Senate

The Governor’s Office adhered to strict orders from Ducey to keep silent about possible candidates in the 13 months following McCain’s brain-cancer diagnosis. The Ninth Floor has remained quiet since the senator’s Aug. 25 death, but rumors are rampant within political circles and on social media.

People wondered: Would Ducey pick someone who reflected the more moderate McCain’s willingness to defy Republican leadership and work across party lines? Would he name a far-right political outsider more in the vein of President Donald Trump? Is there a choice that would satisfy both factions of the state’s fragmented GOP?

Several names emerged in recent months, including that of McCain’s wife of 38 years, Cindy. The 64-year-old philanthropist, businesswoman, military mom and grandmother could represent the senator’s legacy while pursuing her own priorities, such as fighting human trafficking. 


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The list of names also 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 is unclear how — or if — the late senator or his family influenced Ducey’s decision.

Ducey, who is seeking re-election this fall, is the first Arizona governor to fill a U.S. Senate seat by appointment in the state’s 106-year history.

Beyond the requirement that his selection belong to the same political party as McCain, the governor had broad discretion when weighing his decision.

On Monday, people on social media were asking followers to call Ducey’s office to “Say No to Cindy McCain, No to McCain’s staff members, and No to all other RINOs,” an acronym for “Republicans in Name Only.”

Some said they would vote against him in the November midterm elections if he named someone too liberal, “or anyone named McCain.”

Others pushed for Ducey to select Cindy McCain or Meghan McCain, a political commentator and the late senator’s daughter.



Sen. John McCain discusses his most enduring contribution to the Senate during an interview with The Arizona Republic on Aug. 3, 2017. Thomas Hawthorne/

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