PHOENIX — Saying there's no time for on-the-job training, Gov. Doug Ducey tapped former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl to replace John McCain — and become a vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ducey said the move, just two days after McCain was buried, was specifically designed to be quick. In fact, the governor said that Kyl was headed to the airport right after the press conference in hopes of getting sworn in as soon as possible.
How long Kyl will remain is unclear.
By law, he can serve through the 2020 election. And Ducey said he hopes that is the case.
But Kyl, 76, was unwilling to make that commitment, at least at this time, vowing only to remain in Washington through the end of this congressional session which can run through early January.
If Kyl quits, Ducey then would get a chance to name yet another senator, though the question of whether the governor wins another term in November could come in to play.
"I wanted to pick the best possible person regardless of politics,'' Ducey said. "There is big work to be done in the United States Senate,'' the governor continued. "No one in the state of Arizona has the stature of Jon Kyl."
Kyl, an experienced foreign policy hand, will be entering a narrowly divided Senate where Republicans could gain or lose seats in November.
The GOP is hoping he'll be a more reliable partisan vote than McCain, whose opposition to a partial repeal of President Obama's health care law pitched the party into turmoil last year.
Kyl is well-respected in Arizona and has been able to avoid many of the battles with activists that complicated McCain's career and that of the state's other senator, Jeff Flake, who is retiring because his feud with Trump made his re-election impossible.
McCain's widow, Cindy, tweeted: "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."
Doug Cole, a veteran Republican consultant and former McCain aide, said Kyl was a good, safe pick.
"I think McCain would be very happy with the pick. Honors his legacy while putting some major horsepower for Arizona in the seat, at least for now," he said.
Filling McCain's seat marks a turning point in Arizona political history. That seat in particular has been held by two men who were heralded as giants of the Senate: McCain took the seat once held by Sen. Barry Goldwater after he had served in the House of Representatives.
The choice will also have political consequences for Ducey. He's up for re-election this November against Democratic challenger David Garcia.
For Republican voters who are on the fence about Ducey, a choice they dislike could cause them to withdraw their support for the incumbent or stay home on Election Day.
Arizona law requires the governor to appoint a member of the same political party to fill a seat opened by the departure of a senator.