Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will appoint outgoing Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) to the Senate, he announced Tuesday, giving McSally quite a consolation prize after she lost a hard-fought Senate race earlier this fall.
“All her life, Martha has put service first — leading in the toughest of fights and at the toughest of times,” Ducey said in a statement. “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.”
The appointment comes just weeks after McSally lost to Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in the race to fill retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat, the first time in decades that Democrats had won a Senate race in the state.
McSally had initially appeared to be the front-runner for the appointment to the seat once held by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) had kept it warm for the last few months, helping Republicans ram through some judicial nominees, before announcing as expected that he’d leave the chamber at the end of this year.
McSally, a two-term congresswoman and former fighter pilot, came close to beating Sinema in spite of the tough national environment and her late primary against a pair of right-wing opponents. She led Sinema on election night, but once all ballots were tallied Sinema won by a 2.4-point margin.
After McSally’s loss, some Republicans had grumbled that she’d blown a winnable race, and reports indicated that Ducey wasn’t sold on appointing her to the Senate. Other names had circulated, including Ducey’s former chief of staff, Kirk Adams. But the early prevailing wisdom held out, and Ducey decided to pick McSally, who many Republicans still view as their best chance at holding the seat in the purple-trending state.
“Over the last year, I’ve traveled across this great state, meeting with countless Arizonans, and listening to them,” McSally said in her own statement. “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.”
McSally will have to hit the ground running: The appointment is just through 2020. The winner of that election will serve the final two years of McCain’s term before having to run again for a full term in 2022. If McSally wins this race and runs for a full term, she’ll have run in three statewide elections within four years, a brutal schedule.
Democrats see the seat as one of their best opportunities of the cycle. Potential opponents include Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), former astronaut Mark Kelly, who’s married to former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a former McCain chief of staff who recently left the GOP.