By Jason Stone, GSN Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl plans to remain in his seat until a special election is called to fill the late John McCain’s term.
But whether that will still happen in the wake of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally’s Senate election loss to Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema remains to be seen.
“I’m going to talk to the Governor (Doug Ducey) about that,” Kyl told Gilbert Sun News on Nov. 9 after touring Mesa a few days earlier.
He joked, “You’ll be the second to know.”
Ducey’s spokesman did not return a request for comment.
Kyl was appointed by Ducey after U.S. Sen. John McCain’s death in August. At the time of his appointment in early September, Kyl said he would serve through the start of the next Congress in January, but he always left open the possibility he could remain until a special election is called in 2020 to fill the remaining two years of McCain’s term.
“I said I would serve until the end of the term,” Kyl said.
Sinema declared victory on Nov. 12 after McSally conceded.
At the time of Kyl’s appointment, political insiders were speculating he would step down to make way for McSally in case she lost.
Now that it’s happened, it’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do – although in the days following the election Kyl told GSN that McSally’s fate had no bearing on his timetable for staying.
“Obviously, I’m supporting McSally,” Kyl said before Sinema won.
Once McSally conceded, Kyl issued a statement of congratulations to Arizona’s first female senator.
“Congratulations to Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema on winning a hard-fought race to represent the people of Arizona in the United States Senate,” he wrote. “Having recently returned to the Senate after a five-year absence, I have been reminded what an honor it is to represent Arizona citizens in their national government.
“I am confident that Senator-elect Sinema, with her experience in the House of Representatives, will effectively carry out this responsibility, and I wish her the very best.”
Arizona law allows the governor to pick a replacement for a senator until a special election is called. At the time of his selection, Ducey praised Kyl’s previous experience as a senator, adding “now is not the time for on-the-job training.”
Kyl has stressed he has no intention of running in the special election or beyond, meaning he’ll be in the seat until 2020 at the latest.
Kyl returned to Washington, D.C., last week for a lame duck session of Congress.
“With Democratic control of the house, it makes it less likely they’ll want to do anything in the lame duck session,” Kyl said.
Kyl also stepped up his visibility, submitting several pieces of legislation and issuing press releases about them
As for his trip across Mesa, Kyl stopped at the annual East Valley Institute of Technology Foundation breakfast, a meeting with the Mesa Defense and Industry Council, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and the Arizona Farm Bureau’s annual conference, which was held in Mesa this year.
“Part of my job is to know what’s going on,” Kyl said. “There’s a lot going on in Mesa.”
At the Mesa Defense and Industry Council meeting, Kyl learned about the East Valley’s need for even more skilled technology workers to work on private defense projects.
“They’re needing more and more access to people who have specific skills and training, like welding,” Kyle said. “That’s one of the EVIT programs, and I said we should get them together. Hopefully, they will be doing that.”
Kyl received a homework assignment after meeting with the Gateway Airport Authority.
“I’m going to write a letter to ask for the grant money for funding for the new Gateway control tower,” Kyl said. “They need a little push to get the grant.”
The airport has some personal interest to Kyl, as he used to fly Air Force T-38 planes out of the airport when it was still Williams Air Force Base.
The tower had been stuck for several years in Congressional deadlock, and lawmakers recently passed a bill authorizing funds for the project.
Kyl said he’s impressed with the overall health of the strong East Valley jobs economy.
“It’s putting pressure on community colleges and schools like EVIT to produce students who can meet the very tight job market,” Kyl said.
Kyl’s tour of the state included stops in Tucson, Yuma and Flagstaff – or as Kyl calls it, “the places we couldn’t get done before the election.”