McCain Replacement Sen. Jon Kyl Resigning at End of Year

December 14, 2018 Updated: December 14, 2018
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PHOENIX—Sen. Jon Kyl is resigning from the seat he was appointed to less than four months ago following the death of John McCain, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced on Dec. 14. Kyl’s decision means the Republican governor will need to appoint another replacement lawmaker.

The decision by Kyl, 76, was not unexpected. He had retired from the Senate in 2012 and said when he took the appointment in September that he only committed to serving until the end of the year. His resignation is effective Dec. 31.

Ducey sidestepped selecting a longer-term replacement after McCain died on Aug. 25, saying he picked Kyl because he was “the best possible person, regardless of politics” for the job. But Kyl made it clear he only agreed to the appointment out of a sense of duty and had no plans to stay in the job for long.

Now all attention is on Ducey’s pick, who will serve until a special election in 2020 allows voters to select the person who fills the final two years of McCain’s six-year term.

Ducey said he will pick a replacement “in the near future.”

Speculation has centered on Ducey’s former chief of staff, Kirk Adams, a former state lawmaker who recently resigned from the governor’s office; Rep. Martha McSally, who narrowly lost the race for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat in November; and Arizona State Treasurer Eileen Klein.

Kyl’s brief resignation letter said he decided to resign at the end of 2018 so that Ducey’s new appointee “can begin the new term with all other senators in January 2019 and can serve a full two (potentially four) years.”

Kyl noted that when he accepted Ducey’s appointment that he agreed to serve through December and then re-evaluate whether to serve longer.

“Senator Kyl didn’t need to return to the Senate,” Ducey said in a statement. “His legacy as one of Arizona’s most influential and important political figures was already without question. But he did return, and I remain deeply grateful for his willingness to step up and serve again when Arizona needed him. I wish him and his family all the best.”

McCain died at age 81 at his ranch near Sedona, Arizona just over a year after he announced he had glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer that came with a dire diagnosis.