Kyl agreed to serve the rest of the year but didn’t commit to continuing through 2020. If Kyl steps down at the end of the year, Ducey will be required to appoint another replacement.
“It’s a decision that I made with careful and thoughtful deliberation,” Ducey said. “There is no one in Arizona with the stature of Senator Jon Kyl. He is a man without a comparable peer.”
Kyl was Ducey’s mentor from the early days of his public career. Both are pro-growth conservatives.
The appointment brings a more conservative voice to the Senate. McCain often compromised with the Democrats and cast the deciding vote in the failed attempt to repeal vital parts of Obamacare.
Kyl is assisting in the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who took center stage at the first day of raucous hearings in Washington as Ducey made the announcement. Kyl also was the “sherpa” for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions in confirmation hearings for the post of attorney general.
“Sherpa,” a political term for a person who takes the nominee to meet all the senators and guides them through the process, is taken from the name of a people known in part for acting as guides to visitors in the Himalayas.
Ducey said that he spoke to McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, on the morning before he made his selection public.
“Jon Kyl is a dear friend of mine and John’s,” Cindy McCain wrote on Twitter. “It’s a great tribute to John that he is prepared to go back into public service to help the state of Arizona.”
McCain and Kyl served together in the Senate for nearly 20 years before Kyl retired in 2013. Fellow Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who is retiring, praised Ducey’s selection on Twitter.
“What an excellent choice!” Flake wrote. “There is no one more qualified and Arizona is well served. Kudos to Senator Kyl for his willingness to serve once again.”
Kyl told reporters that he left public service because he needed to be with his family and wasn’t intending on returning.
“I am grateful for Gov. Ducey’s confidence in me and am honored to accept this appointment,” Kyl said.
Kyl said that he doesn’t plan to seek the seat in 2020 “or any other office in the future.”
“I’m accepting this appointment to fill the seat vacated by the passing of my dear friend, because of my sense of duty to the state I love, and the institution of the Senate in which I served for 18 years,” Kyl said.
Asked about his relationship with Trump, Kyl said that he had met the president on only one occasion.
According to Ducey, Kyl was expected to fly to Washington the same day to be sworn in. Ducey was coordinating with the Secretary of State and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Ducey’s appointment restores the Republican margin in the Senate to 51–49. McCain didn’t cast any votes for months as he battled brain cancer.
The Senate has a loaded schedule for the rest of its term, including the confirmation of Kavanaugh, which is expected to take place before October.
Before his 18 years in the Senate, Kyl served on the House of Representatives from 1987 through 1995. He was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2010 and Arizonian of the Year in 2012 by the Arizona Republic newspaper.
Kyl served on the judiciary, finance, and joint select committees. After being sworn in, he will receive new assignments, not those previously held by McCain.
Ducey said he received a lot of unsolicited advice about the selection. He said the best piece of advice he received was from another governor, who said, “Just do the right thing. Pick the best possible person regardless of politics.”
Kyl is well versed with key issues for Arizona, including water and natural resources, and Native American relations.
Prior to entering public service, Kyl practiced law at a private firm. In 1985, he served as the chairman of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.
Kyl has a wife, two children, and four grandchildren, according to a press release from Ducey’s office.
In 2020, a special election will be held to fill McCain’s seat for the remainder of his term, which would have run through 2022.