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Arizona Governor to Appoint Martha McSally to McCain’s Senate Seat

Sinema will be sworn in first, with McSally becoming the state's junior senator

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint Republican Rep. Martha McSally to fill the late Sen. John McCain’s seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is appointing GOP Rep. Martha McSally to the late Sen. John McCain’s Senate seat. 

After McCain’s death in August, Ducey tapped former Sen. Jon Kyl to fill the post. Kyl is vacating it at the end of the year.

McSally will occupy the seat for the middle two years of its six-year term. If she wants a crack at the final two years of the seat, she would need to run again in a 2020 special election. 

McSally is fresh off a loss to Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema for retiring Sen. Jeff Flake’s Senate seat. Her appointment to the Senate for the next two years will take effect next month.

Ducey said at an afternoon press conference that he’s going to “respect the will of the voters” and that Sinema will be the state’s senior senator.

Kyrsten Sinema will be sworn in first on Jan. 3. She will be the senior senator from Arizona,” he said.

“She was elected to the office and is going to be sworn in first,” Ducey said of Sinema, as McSally stood behind him nodding.

McSally said she texted Sinema Tuesday morning and looks forward to working with her in the Senate. Asked at the press conference how they can move past McSally’s accusation during a debate that Sinema had committed “treason,” McSally simply said, “The election is over.”

McSally praised McCain Tuesday, calling him an “Arizona icon and American hero.” She had angered some Arizona Republicans during the campaign by siding closely with President Donald Trump, who sparred openly with McCain. McSally reportedly met with Cindy McCain, the late senator’s wife, last week. According to AZCentral.com, McSally apologized for omitting McCain’s name during Trump’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which was named in honor of the senator. 

The first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, McSally won election to the 2nd District in 2014. Ducey praised both her political and military  experience on Tuesday. But after narrowly losing to Sinema, McSally received criticism from Republicans disappointed with her performance. There was cooling toward her from GOP donors, who’d been urging Ducey not to appoint her. 

“I think she is qualified and will represent Arizona well,” Arizona-based GOP donor Dan Eberhart said in an email Tuesday. He supported her 2018 campaign but has concerns about how she performed this year, predicting she’ll attract a well-financed opponent in 2020. 

“This appointment makes the seat harder to defend than if Ducey would have appointed someone more palatable to the electorate,” Eberhart added. 

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report. 

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