Former Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally will fill the seat vacated by the late John McCain, Arizona’s governor Doug Ducey announced Tuesday.
McSally will replace U.S. Sen. John Kyl, who was originally named to the post, but intends on retiring at the end of this year, according to Arizona Central.
The move is a strange reversal of luck for McSally, who narrowly lost a race for Senate back in November after a close vote gave way to days of recounts that eventually favored her opponent, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema, who won the election by only a handful of votes, will remain the state’s senior senator, according to Ducey’s Tuesday statement.
McSally was grateful for the second chance, a sentiment she made clear in a brief speech on Tuesday morning.
“As I now deploy to the Senate, I pledge to devote all of my energies to ensuring that all Arizonans have a voice,” she said.
“I also look forward to working with Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate, just like we did in the House,” she continued. “There’s a lot of common ground between us, and I’m ready to hit it running. Arizona’s two senators have always worked together, for decades. That’s our tradition and how we’re most effective, and that’s how I plan to serve.”
McSally’s road to the appointment wasn’t easy, and involved navigating some politically fraught territory including inking a peace treaty with members of the McCain family, who were left insulted when McSally failed to mention the late senator’s legacy in a joint ceremony with President Donald Trump back in August. Tweets issued Tuesday morning from both McSally and Cindy McCain, the late senator’s wife, indicated that both parties had smoothed over the bumps in their relationship.
“My husband’s greatest legacy was placing service to AZ & USA ahead of his own self-interest. I respect @dougducey’s decision to appoint @RepMcSally to fill the remainder of his term. Arizonans will be pulling for her, hoping that she will follow his example of selfless leadership,” McCain tweeted.
The good news for McSally may not last for long, though. Because of the timing, McSally will be forced to run again in two years when the late Sen. McCain was up for re-election. Then, because of another fluke, she’ll be required to defend her seat again in 2022, just two years later, even though most senators have a comfortable five-to-six years between races.
“Under Arizona law, Ducey’s appointment of McSally means she is essentially tasked with filling out a sequence of two year terms. She will have to run for re-election in 2020, and run again in 2022,” the Federalist reported Tuesday. “The demands of running non-stop are hard enough when you’re talking about a House seat. In this case, McSally will have to do something she hasn’t done before – win statewide – in back to back election cycles.”
Even though McSally has appeared in several Arizona political contests, she’s only won one, and that could make running two back-to-back statewide elections more difficult, particularly when she’ll face competition from both the Right and the Left.
McSally’s campaign in a post-election loss explanation memo contended that she was hurt, as a candidate, by attacks from the Right — from dedicated, Trump-affiliated candidates like Kelli Ward and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. She and her team believe she went into the fight with Sinema weakened, and it’s not unlikely that she’ll face a similar primary attack again, both in 2020 and in 2022.
For now, though, McSally can enjoy being one of only a handful of Republican women to represent a state in the Senate.