WASHINGTON • Arizona's governor has appointed former senator Jon Kyl to fill the seat left open by late senator John McCain, elevating a well-liked former Republican lawmaker who is acceptable to both Mr McCain's admirers and forces loyal to United States President Donald Trump.
Mr Kyl, who served three terms in the Senate, spoke at a service honouring Mr McCain in the Arizona State Capitol last week. He has also been shepherding Mr Brett Kavanaugh, Mr Trump's Supreme Court appointee, through the Senate.
"It's not the time for newcomers and not the time for on-the-job training," said Governor Doug Ducey at a news conference in Phoenix.
But in tapping Mr Kyl, Mr Ducey has effectively put the stature of Mr McCain's seat ahead of the political imperative of keeping it in Republican hands. For now, Mr Kyl has committed to serving only until the start of the next Congress in January.
A special election will be called in 2020 to fill the remainder of Mr McCain's term, which would have ended in January 2023. Mr Kyl said he would not be a candidate in 2020.
That would leave the seat open and could trigger a fiercely competitive primary.
With Republicans holding only a 50-49 majority in the Senate and a vote on Mr Kavanaugh looming, the governor thought it was vital to appoint somebody who could immediately step in and represent the state's interests.