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Jon Kyl Returning to Senate to Serve Rest of McCain's Term

jon kyl at jeff flake election party

WASHINGTON -- Former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will return to Capitol Hill to serve out the remainder of Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) term, a choice praised by Cindy McCain.

Kyl, 76, the former Senate minority whip, served in the upper chamber from 1995 to 2013 and has been lobbying for a D.C. law firm since leaving Congress. He's agreed to serve through at least the end of the year, though the governor said he hopes he'll get the commitment from Kyl to serve longer.

Under Arizona law, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) named McCain's successor to serve until the 2020 election. The winner there will serve the remainder of McCain's term, until the 2022 election. If Kyl leaves before the 2020 election, Ducey would make another appointment.

"John McCain was an American hero and we were very blessed to have him as a senator," Ducey said at a press conference. "... There is no replacing John McCain, but the law requires me to do it."

Ducey said he received much advice about the appointment, "most of it unsolicited." Trump supporters had been encouraging the governor, who is up for re-election this year, to pick someone in the mold of the president; “I want somebody in there who will protect the back of our president and somebody that will not pursue impeachment if there is impeachment," said former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who lost a primary bid last month for Arizona's other Senate seat.

Ducey said he opted to "pick the best possible person, regardless of politics."

"There is no one in Arizona with the stature of Jon Kyl," Ducey said, noting how Kyl has been working with the White House over the past few months to advance the nomination of Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh. "Now Sen. Kyl can cast a vote for Kavanaugh's nomination."

While shepherding Supreme Court picks, Kyl has not indicated he's a Trump loyalist, saying in a February interview that the president is a “phenomenon that has to be dealt with.”

“I don’t like his style. I think it is boorish. I think he’s own worst enemy. He could be much more effective if he were more politique, more diplomatic — of course, that’s one of the things that people like about him — the fact that he isn’t that way. But I think there’s a happy medium,” Kyl said.

Kyl said today at the news conference with Ducey that he doesn't have a relationship with Trump. "Sometimes his desire to jump into the middle of a fight or create a fight... can be detrimental to what he's trying to achieve," he said, standing by the "boorish" comment.

Kyl said that he "will do my best to ensure that Arizonans continue to be well-represented in the Senate."

"I do know I will not seek this seat in 2020 or any other office in the future," Kyl added, saying he accepted the appointment "because of my dear friend" McCain.

"I look forward to going to Washington and getting to work," Kyl said.

Cindy McCain approved of the appointment, tweeting, "Jon Kyl is 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."

Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) also voiced his approval. "Governor Ducey has selected Senator Jon Kyl as Senator McCain’s replacement. What an excellent choice! There is no one more qualified and Arizona is well served. Kudos to Senator Kyl for his willingness to serve once again," he tweeted.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a Trump supporter, said in a statement that Kyl's "longtime devotion to our state and people will give Arizona a much-needed and honest voice for land, water, and military issues."

"Senator Kyl has a pro-life track record and will work to increase America’s economic resurgence and prosperity," Biggs added. "I commend him for his decision to return to public service; his leadership is greatly valued.”