Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey named former Sen. Jon Kyl to the Senate on Tuesday, tapping a major conservative figure to replace the late Sen. John McCain and giving the GOP timely reinforcements.
“There is no one in Arizona with the stature of Senator Jon Kyl. He is a man without comparable peer,” Mr. Ducey said.
Mr. Kyl, who had risen to be the second-ranking Republican in the Senate before retiring in 2012, served alongside McCain for 18 years. He’s been a lawyer in Washington since his retirement, and in recent months has been shepherding Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh through his nomination to the Supreme Court.
“Now Senator Kyl can cast a vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation,” Mr. Ducey said.
Mr. Kyl has only committed to serving through the end of this year, though Mr. Ducey said he hopes that time is expanded to 2020, when the seat is next up for election to fill out the rest of McCain’s term, and then again in 2022, for a full regular term.
Mr. Kyl said he will not be a candidate for the seat in 2020.
“I’m willing to serve certainly through the end of this session, at least to make sure the business that is currently ongoing is taken care of, but I don’t want to make a commitment beyond that,” Mr. Kyl said.
Arizona’s other Senate seat is up for election this year, with Sen. Jeff Flake resigning after one term.
Picking Mr. Kyl solves a potential political problem for Mr. Ducey, who also is up for re-election in November. Conservative activists had pushed the governor to name Kelli Ward, who lost her primary last week in the race for the Flake seat. Some Arizonans also said they would have liked to see McCain’s wife Cindy named to fill his seat.
Picking Mr. Kyl, though, is a masterful stroke. He brings exceptional gravitas as well as ties to this White House though he said he’s only met President Trump once.
Mrs. McCain expressed her support for the Kyl pick Tuesday, calling him “a dear friend” and saying his willingness to fill the seat was “a great tribute” to her husband.
Mr. Flake also praised Mr. Kyl.
“There is no one more qualified and Arizona is well served,” he said.
In the near term, Mr. Kyl will give the GOP a buffer in floor votes that the party had lacked since December. McCain had been absent in the eight months since, as he battled cancer at his home in Arizona.
Without him, the GOP had an effective 50-49 advantage over Democrats, meaning a single Republican defection on an issue could deny them a majority. Now with Mr. Kyl, they return to a 51-49 margin, and if a Republican defects on an issue, Vice President Mike Pence can break the tie for the GOP.
Gabriella Munoz contributed to this article.