Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will make the appointment that will fill the seat of the late Sen. John McCain — but only after Mr. McCain is laid to rest next Sunday, according to the governor’s office.
Under state law the replacement must be of the same party as Mr. McCain, a Republican, according to election experts. That ensures the GOP will maintain control of the seat — though because Mr. Ducey is a Republican also, that was likely anyway.
But the governor won’t be making any announcements on that front until Mr. McCain is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy cemetery in Maryland. A private memorial service and burial ceremony have been scheduled in Annapolis for Sept. 2.
“Out of respect for the life and legacy of Senator John McCain and his family, Governor Doug Ducey will not be making any announcements about an appointment until after the Senator is laid to rest,” Ducey senior adviser Daniel Ruiz said in a statement to the Arizona Republic. “Now is a time for remembering and honoring a consequential life well lived.”
Because the vacancy happened so late in the year, Mr. Ducey’s replacement will serve through the end of 2020, and the seat will next be on the ballot in November of that year. The winner would then serve out the final two years of the term Mr. McCain won in 2016 — his sixth.
Mr. Ducey’s decision could be tricky.
Arizona’s other Senate seat, currently held by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, is up for election this year and the party primaries are Tuesday. That race has turned into a bruising battle with an establishment-backed candidate in Rep. Martha McSally and two candidates from the party’s right wing, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former state lawmaker Kelli Ward.
The conservatives are splitting the vote and Ms. McSally seems headed for a comfortable victory — but Mr. Ducey may face pressure from some corners of his state to name one of the other two to fill Mr. McCain’s seat.
For her part, Ms. Ward found herself in hot water over the weekend for a post on Facebook in which she responded to a staffer who wondered whether Mr. McCain’s family might have timed the announcement that he was stopping his cancer treatment to coincide with Ms. Ward’s closing-stretch bus tour.
“I think they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me,” Ms. Ward said in a since-deleted message.
She later said that “the media loves a narrative” and that she “feels compassion” for Mr. McCain’s family.
There has also been some speculation that Mr. Ducey could name Cindy McCain, Mr. McCain’s wife, to fill the seat.
But for his part the governor was focused Sunday on celebrating the legacy of the late senator, who died Saturday at the age of 81 of brain cancer.
Mr. Ducey said Mr. McCain will lie in state at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, the same day as Mr. McCain’s birthday.
“This is a rare and distinct occurrence for a truly special man. John McCain is Arizona, and we will honor his life every way we can,” the governor tweeted.
⦁ This article was based in part on wire-service reports.