State Watch

Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement

For more than a year, Cindy McCain kept Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) updated after her husband’s brain cancer diagnosis.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) passed away Saturday, just four days before his 82nd birthday, 32 years after winning his first term in the Senate.
Now it falls to Ducey to choose McCain’s successor. The first-term governor has already begun considering a list of potential replacements, according to four Republicans either familiar with Ducey’s thinking or close to those who have been involved in initial discussions.
But Ducey, both conscious of McCain’s status as one of the nation’s most respected statesmen and war heroes and nervous about his own reelection bid this November, has squelched speculation about who might inherit McCain’s seat.{mosads}
A spokesman in Ducey’s office declined to comment. None of the Republicans familiar with Ducey’s thinking agreed to speak on the record, in order to detail private and sensitive conversations.
Most speculation focused on three potential candidates: Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, the director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs and the adjutant general of the state’s Army and Air National Guards; Karrin Taylor Robson, a wealthy businesswoman whom Ducey appointed to the state Board of Regents in 2017; and Kirk Adams, a former state House Speaker who is now Ducey’s chief of staff.
Several sources also pointed to former Sen. Jon Kyl (R), McCain’s longtime seatmate who is now shepherding Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and former Rep. John Shadegg (R), who left Congress in 2011. 
The New York Times on Sunday added state Treasurer Eileen Klein (R) and Barbara Barrett, an ambassador to Finland under former President George W. Bush.
Ducey is said to be acutely aware of what Arizona’s conservative activists — those who most closely follow and approve of President Trump — are thinking. Ducey needs those voters for his own reelection bid, and he is likely to consider his own political future, one that would benefit from a close relationship with Trump. Ducey is already close with Vice President Pence.
Those relationships mean that other potential Senate candidates once thought to be under consideration have fallen victim to political circumstance. 
Cindy McCain, who may have served as a caretaker of her husband’s seat, is no longer seen as a potential appointee. Grant Woods, John McCain’s first congressional chief of staff and a candidate long seen as McCain’s choice to take his seat, endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, likely making him a non-starter with the White House.
Several potential candidates who began jockeying for an appointment late last year were so public about their ostensibly private bids that they effectively played themselves out of contention. In a radio interview last year, Ducey said those who were “openly lobbying for this position, they’ve basically disqualified themselves by showing their true character.”
Republicans close to Ducey interpreted his remarks as chin music meant for Rep. Paul Gosar (R), former Rep. Matt Salmon (R) and former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R).
Gosar, a hyperconservative member of the House Freedom Caucus, is almost certainly a non-starter, even before his overt campaigning for the seat angered Ducey. Salmon, now the chief lobbyist for Arizona State University, was seen as indelicate in sending out feelers about the possibility of winning the appointment. And Ward is likely to lose Tuesday’s Republican primary to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R) to a more establishment rival, making her appointment unlikely.
Whomever Ducey chooses to replace McCain will serve in the Senate until 2020, when Arizona voters will choose someone to fill the two remaining years of the term McCain won in 2016.
Ducey said Saturday he would wait until McCain is buried before he names a successor. McCain will lie in state in both the Arizona and U.S. Capitols before he is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy’s cemetery in Annapolis, Md.
Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jeff Flake John McCain Matt Salmon Mitch McConnell Paul Gosar
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