Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey is facing a tough decision that will likely impact his career and whomever he appoints to fill the late Senator John McCain’s now vacant seat. As McCain died while still in office, Arizona state law requires a gubernatorial appointment — the first time in the state’s 105-year history — leaving Ducey holding all the cards in a high stakes game.
Ducey has few limitations impeding his choice — the successor would serve in the Senate until voters go to the polls in next general election (in this case 2020). And of course, he or she must be a Republican. The stymying question is whether he will appoint a temporary placeholder or someone who will run in 2020 and likely win in the conservative state, serving Arizona through 2026.
Sounds simple enough, until you get into the nitty gritty of Arizona’s version of political musical chairs and meet the contestants.
What we do know is that Ducey has reiterated that he will not appoint himself. And, at this late stage in the game, he will surely avoid appointing a current congressional member. A vacancy in the House would trigger a special election which by law cannot wait until the regular 2020 primary and general elections. Arizona’s electorate body would surely self-combust in confusion and frustration.
But there is laundry list of potentials preening, posturing, and waiting in the wings.
Names of the Arizona infamous being bandied about include McCain’s widow and heiress Cindy Hensley McCain, former Senator Jon Kyl, accomplished businesswoman Barbara Barrett, developer Karrin Taylor Robson, former Congressmen John Shadegg and Matt Salmon, State Treasurer Eileen Klein, and Ducey’s chief of staff Kirk Adams. An impressive mix of office holders and political neophytes.
Although Arizonans have rallied around the McCain family in mourning, praising his war hero status and maverick-style, would it be prudent to appoint Cindy to carry on her husband’s brand of bitterness toward the current administration and the conservative agenda? That will not help this country move forward.
Before McCain’s terminal cancer diagnosis, Cindy was under consideration by the U.S. Department as “U.S. ambassador-at-large for human rights.” Insiders say she was a “shoe in” to serve in Trump’s administration. Perhaps she could bring an olive branch to the White House.
And is McCain’s agenda to be carried out by the next generation of U.S. senators from the Grand Canyon State or is a fresh approach necessary?
Former Senator Jon Kyl, who retired in 2012, spent 26 years on the Hill, leading him to be a contender as strictly a placeholder for the 2020 general election. But at least Arizona can trust Kyl to deliver on promises, work with the White House and Democrats, all while staying true to conservative values.
John Shadegg would also bring a more conservative flair to congress, whereas Matt Salmon seems to be settled in his position with Arizona State University as Vice President of Public Affairs.
But these candidates would immediately be considered Swamp Dwellers, which does nothing for the Republican Party or Trump’s promise to drain the fetid pool.
Arizona has a love-hate relationship with real estate developers, and that should knock Karen Robson out of consideration – regardless of her stellar background on environmental law and policy on endangered species and wetlands issues.
Barbara Barrett ran for governor in 1994 against the Republican incumbent, earning her a black eye with the state Republican Party. Although she lost in the primary, and decades have passed, she might be more of a polarizing figure for conservatives.
And if Ducey appoints his chief of staff, Kirk Adams, regardless the man’s qualifications, it may be the riskiest of all political moves. Ducey faces his own reelection in November.
What’s a Guv to Do?
Governor Ducey is not talking appointment to fill McCain’s seat until after the senator is laid to rest out of respect for the man and his family. But he and his closest advisors are huddled and mulling over the best possible candidates for Arizona, the current administration, and the United States. It’s a daunting task. And whatever the decision, it will certainly send shockwaves rippling in all directions when the cards he holds are shown.
Replacing McCain will not be easy.
Senator John McCain was a complicated and controversial politician – a polarizing figure within his own party. He was a man who, when faced with a terminal diagnosis and a treatment that must certainly have impaired his judgement, refused to resign to allow business in Washington D.C. to continue. And by refusing to leave office, yet not setting foot on the floor to vote the entirety of 2018, he committed a gross disservice to his state and his country. Instead, he battled with President Trump on Twitter.
Hopefully Ducey’s choice in the following days is someone of good character, patriotic in the quest to serve, and will put America first above a destructive agenda as his or her predecessor seemingly adopted. Arizona needs a statesman or stateswoman who will not let personal politics besmirch a conservative agenda – a senator who will place the good of the order above an unfettered ego. A person unlike McCain, may he now rest in peace.