Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday picked fellow Republican and former Sen. Jon Kyl to succeed Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.) in the Senate ahead of 2020, when a special election will be held for a permanent successor.

Ducey hailed Kyl during a news conference in Phoenix, saying the former senator who served alongside McCain for nearly two decades was best suited to take McCain's place ahead of the special election.

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“As I contemplated who could best serve our state in the U.S. Senate, I kept coming back to one name and one person: Jon Kyl,” Ducey said.

Kyl, who left the Senate in 2013, said he will serve at least until the end of this Congress in January, but has not committed to serving in 2019 and 2020. He told reporters Tuesday that he has no interest in running for the seat come 2020.

“I’m willing to serve certainly through the end of this session at least to make sure that the business that is currently ongoing is taken care of,” Kyl said. “But I don’t want to make a commitment beyond that.”

McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, offered praise for Kyl on Twitter ahead of the press conference on Tuesday, calling him "a dear friend of mine and John’s."

"It’s a great tribute to John that he is prepared to go back into public service to help the state of Arizona," she wrote.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Coulter mocks Kavanaugh accuser: She'll only testify 'from a ski lift' Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE (R-Ariz.), who is planning to retire in January, praised the selection of Kyl, telling reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that Arizona would be “well-served” by Kyl and saying he “shared Sen. McCain’s views on most things.”

“He’s a great pick,” Flake said. “There’s nobody more qualified.”

Kyl, 76, served alongside McCain in the Senate for 18 years and rose to Senate Republican whip, the party's No. 2 leadership post, before announcing in 2011 that he would not seek reelection and would retire from the upper chamber. 

Former Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE (R-Ariz.), a former House Freedom Caucus co-founder whose name had also been floated for the Senate seat, was quick to praise Ducey's pick.

"With Flake leaving and McCain's passing, Arizona has a big hole. Kyl hits the ground running and helps to fill that big hole," Salmon told The Hill. "He's trusted and needed at this very challenging time."

Arizona GOP strategist Jason Rose, a Ducey contributor and supporter, called Kyl a consensus pick.

"Everyone will say, 'That's a good way to help the state of Arizona.' He checks so many boxes," Rose said. "Kyl was the easiest and the best choice."

The announcement comes two days after McCain was laid to rest at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., following a week of ceremonies that culminated on Saturday with a service at the National Cathedral in Washington.

McCain died late last month after being diagnosed with brain cancer last year. A day before his death, his family announced that the longtime senator had decided to cease medical treatment for the disease.

Kyl is well respected in Republican circles and is currently acting as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s "sherpa" — the person helping guide the judge through the nomination process on Capitol Hill.

His appointment to fill McCain’s vacant seat in Washington will allow him to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, giving Republicans a solid vote in favor of the conservative judge, whom many Democrats have vehemently opposed.

Scott Wong, Alexander Bolton and Jordain Carney contributed reporting

Updated at 1:36 p.m.