PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Tuesday appointed Republican congresswoman Martha McSally to fill the U.S. Senate seat held for decades by John McCain.
"I am humbled and grateful to have this opportunity to serve and be a voice for all Arizonans," McSally said in a statement.
The decision comes weeks after McSally lost her bid for outgoing Senator Jeff Flake's seat to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in one of the midterms' most contentious Senate races.
McSally will serve for at least the next two years, succeeding Republican Senator Jon Kyl who stepped in to fill the position through 2018 following McCain's death in August from brain cancer. This past week, Kyl announced he will resign Dec. 31.
"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," Ducey said in a statement Tuesday.
Some Republicans in Washington wanted Ducey to look at other candidates given McSally's narrow loss to Sinema in November, in what they thought had been a lackluster campaign. McSally's decision to run on a platform in line with President Donald Trump despite her status as a moderate Republican in the state also reportedly frustrated members of the McCain camp.
McSally took private meetings with Ducey earlier this month, as well with as McCain's widow Cindy last week, seemingly to assuage any concerns.
"My husband’s greatest legacy was placing service to AZ & USA ahead of his own self-interest. I respect @dougducey's decision to appoint @RepMcSally to fill the remainder of his term. Arizonans will be pulling for her, hoping that she will follow his example of selfless leadership," Cindy McCain tweeted Tuesday.
McSally, 52, is a U.S. Air Force veteran and was the first woman to fly in combat.
Her appointment makes her the second woman to serve Arizona in the U.S. Senate, following Sinema’s win, and one of 25 women in the Senate for the upcoming 116th Congress.
“I thank her for taking on this significant responsibility and look forward to working with her and Senator-Elect Sinema to get positive things done,” Ducey said.
Due to the timing of McCain's death, McSally will have to run to remain in the seat in what's gearing up to be a competitive 2020 special election.
Democrat Ruben Gallego, a Harvard graduate, Marine Corps combat veteran and current congressman, and retired astronaut Mark Kelly have expressed interest in running for the seat. Kelly is married to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011.
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