Martha McSally appointed to John McCain’s senate seat

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is appointing Rep. Martha McSally to the Senate. McSally lost a race for Arizona's other Senate seat to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

(CNN) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is appointing Republican Rep. Martha McSally to the Senate, Ducey said in a statement Tuesday.

McSally narrowly lost a race this year to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for Arizona’s other Senate seat, which opened after Sen. Jeff Flake opted against seeking re-election.

Instead, McSally will replace GOP Sen. Jon Kyl, who is resigning months after Ducey selected him in September to temporarily fill the seat of former Sen. John McCain, who died in August.

“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 in the statement.

McSally was the preferred choice of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other national Republicans who see her resume as the Air Force’s first female pilot to fly in combat as the makings of a strong candidate in an increasingly challenging state, where she’ll have to run in a special election to keep the job in 2020.

But McSally’s loss to Sinema had left some Arizona Republicans skeptical. And her decision to embrace Donald Trump-style rhetoric on issues like immigration, rather than McCain’s legacy, had led to resistance to McSally from McCain’s camp.

Cindy McCain, the late senator’s widow, tweeted a tepid statement after Ducey’s announcement Tuesday.

“My husband’s greatest legacy was placing service to AZ & USA ahead of his own self-interest. I respect @dougducey’s decision to appoint @RepMcSally to fill the remainder of his term. Arizonans will be pulling for her, hoping that she will follow his example of selfless leadership,” she said.

Under Arizona law, a special election for the seat will be held at the same time as the next general election — which means the Arizona seat is likely to be one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races during the 2020 presidential election. Then, the seat will be on the ballot again in 2022 for a full six-year term.

After losing to Sinema, it’s not yet clear whether McSally will be seen as a strong enough candidate to keep other Republicans from challenging her in a primary. Former McCain aide Grant Woods, gun control advocate Mark Kelly and Rep. Ruben Gallego, are among the potential Democratic candidates.

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