McCain’s Senate Successor Jon Kyl to Step Down

Tapped in September to take over in the U.S. Senate for the late John McCain, Sen. Jon Kyl announced his resignation on Dec. 14 after just three months in office. Before his retirement in 2013, Kyl served as a minority whip for the Republicans. He is pictured here walking between the Senate chamber and the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in Washington on Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

PHOENIX (CN) — Positioning the governor to appoint a second successor to the late Senator John McCain, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona announced Friday he will resign Dec. 31.

Kyl, a Republican, accepted the appointment about a week and a half after McCain’s Aug. 25 death from brain cancer.

Before the appointment, Kyl had retired in 2013 after 18 years in the U.S. Senate. He rose to prominence as minority whip, from 2007 until his retirement.

While Kyl agreed to accept the position, he never pledged to serve the remainder of McCain’s term, which does not end until 2020.

In Kyl’s resignation letter, officially submitted Friday, he thanked Arizona Governor Doug Ducey for the opportunity to serve Arizona again.

“I have concluded that it would be best if I resign so that your new appointee can begin the new term with all other Senators in January 2019 and can serve a full two (potentially four) years,” Kyl wrote.

During his short return to the Senate, Kyl supported the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in a divisive confirmation battle that featured allegations of perjury, conflict of interest and sexual misconduct as a teenager.

“When Jon Kyl returned to the Senate in September, our country faced many critical issues,” Ducey said in a statement. “Arizona needed someone who could hit the ground running from day one and represent our state with experience and confidence – and that’s exactly what Senator Kyl has done.”

In the time after his retirement, Kyl served as a lobbyist for Covington & Burling and helped guide Kavanaugh through the confirmation.

“Senator Kyl didn’t need to return to the Senate,” Ducey said. “His legacy as one of Arizona’s most influential and important political figures was already without question. But he did return, and I remain deeply grateful for his willingness to step up and serve again when Arizona needed him. I wish him and his family all the best.”

Kyl’s resignation caps off a tumultuous year for Arizona’s U.S. senators.

Senator Jeff Flake announced he would not run for re-election this year, sparking a contentious battle for his seat between Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, and Representative Martha McSally, a Republican. Sinema narrowly beat McSally by less than 3 percent of the vote, making her the first woman to win a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.

Due to her popularity, McSally’s name has been floated as a candidate to succeed Kyl. Also in the mix is former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams, who just resigned as Ducey’s chief of staff, and state Treasurer Eileen Klein.

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