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Arizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around
PHOENIX, Ariz. - Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's (R) decision to appoint Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to fill an open U.S. Senate seat is winning broad approval from voters here, but the state's political class is already preparing for Kyl's departure when Congress adjourns for the year.
A new poll of Arizona voters conducted after Kyl took over the seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain (R) found 67 percent of respondents approve of Ducey's choice. Seven in 10 independents and even a plurality of Democratic voters approved of the choice.
Kyl left the Senate six years ago, but 56 percent of Arizona voters still have a favorable opinion of the former three-term senator, according to the survey conducted by OH Predictive Insights, an Arizona-based public opinion research firm.
In an interview Tuesday, Ducey said his longtime political mentor Kyl was the logical - and only - choice.
"Jon Kyl was the one person with the stature that could go in to fill an irreplaceable senator's shoes," Ducey told The Hill.
"Jon Kyl was not looking to go back to the United States Senate. He didn't need to do this and he did not want to do this."
But many in Arizona political circles wonder how long Kyl will be around.
After leaving the Senate in 2013, Kyl built a lucrative lobbying career with the Washington-based firm Covington & Burling, where he advised pharmaceutical, defense and telecommunications clients.
Though the appointed senator could hold the seat until voters choose a replacement in November 2020, Kyl has committed to serving only through the end of the current Congress, which adjourns at the end of the year.
He has not said he will resign, though most in Arizona political circles believe Kyl won't serve more than a few months.
Already, former state Attorney General Grant Woods, a Republican who served as McCain's first congressional chief of staff, has said he will consider running for the seat as a Democrat.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) has also said he is interested, a move seen as a brushback pitch aimed at keeping Woods on the sideline.
Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), is seen as a potential candidate on the Democratic side.
On the Republican side, several current and former members of Congress who angled to get the appointment - angering both Ducey and McCain's family in the process - will be in the conversation when voters pick a replacement in 2020.
David Garcia, the state's Democratic nominee for governor, has tried to make the Senate seat an issue in his bid to deny Ducey a second term.
The governor is required by law to fill an open Senate seat with a member of the same party as the last senator, and Garcia has said he would appoint Republicans Woods or Cindy McCain, the late senator's wife, to replace Kyl.
"You're voting for the next senator when you're voting for this governor," said Ian Danley, Garcia's campaign manager. "If Jon Kyl's not going to finish the term, the next governor should fill the seat."
Asked whether he had names in mind should Kyl step down, Ducey said: "Of course I have a list. Jon Kyl's the top of the list."
"I'd love to see Jon Kyl serve until 2020," Ducey said. "That's completely up to him."