Martha McSally (Getty/Justin Sullivan)

Doug Ducey appoints Martha McSally to Senate: A shot for Dems to flip a second Arizona seat in 2020?

McSally will fill the seat vacated by John McCain and face a special election in 2020 to complete his full term


Shira Tarlo
December 18, 2018 4:03PM (UTC)

Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona has announced that he is appointing Republican Rep. Martha McSally to succeed Sen. Jon Kyl when he steps down from Congress at the end of this year.

McSally will fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. John McCain and face a special election in 2020 to complete the last two years of his term. Kyl represented Arizona in the Senate for nearly two decades before retiring in 2013 after rising to become the second-highest ranking Republican senator. He was tapped earlier this year to fill the seat on an interim basis and to guide Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh through his Senate confirmation hearings.

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In his announcement, Ducey said that McSally "has put service first — leading in the toughest of fights and at the toughest of times."

"She served 26 years in the military; deployed six times to the Middle East and Afghanistan; was the first woman to fly in combat and command a fighter squadron in combat; and she’s represented Southern Arizona in Congress for the past four years," Ducey said. "With her experience and long record of service, Martha is uniquely qualified to step up and fight for Arizona's interests in the U.S. Senate."

"I thank her for taking on this significant responsibility and look forward to working with her and Senator-elect Sinema to get positive things done," Ducey said, referring to Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat who defeated McSally last month to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz), making her the first Arizona Democrat elected to the upper chamber in 30 years. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Arizona by 3.5 percentage points — 48.1 percent to Clinton's 44.6 percent. Republicans have captured Arizona's 11 electoral voters in every presidential election cycle since 1952, except when former President Bill Clinton carried the state in 1996. During the 2018 midterm election cycle, McSally's share of the vote was close to Trump's at 48 percent, but Sinema came out on top with 49.7 percent.

In a press release issued by Ducey's office, McSally said, "Over the last year, I’ve traveled across this great state, meeting with countless Arizonans, and listening to them. I've heard about the challenges they face and the hopes they have for the future—and I've learned a lot. I am humbled and grateful to have this opportunity to serve and be a voice for all Arizonans. I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Kyrsten Sinema and getting to work from day one."

Cindy McCain, the widow of the late senator, praised Ducey's announcement on Twitter.

"My husband's greatest legacy was placing service to AZ & USA ahead of his own self-interest. I respect Doug Ducey's decision to appoint [Martha McSally] to fill the remainder of his term," McCain tweeted. "Arizonans will be pulling for her, hoping that she will follow his example of selfless leadership."

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McSally's failed Senate bid has caused some Arizona Republicans to question whether she would be the best choice to replace Kyl.  An internal memo from the state's Republican Party, which was released within weeks of McSally's loss to Sinema, cast doubt on McSally's campaign's decision-making and drew troubling conclusions about Trump's chances of winning Arizona in 2020. The memo further suggests the once solidly-red state could have two Democrats in the Senate in less than two years, as McSally's appointment could give Democrats a better shot at flipping the seat in 2020.


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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