Republicans jockeying for McCain’s senate seat when Jon Kyl resigns


The Washington Post today takes a look at the senate seat speculation in Arizona. With McCain’s replacement likely to leave, GOP is split over appointing this year’s loser in Senate race:

Days after the midterm election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey spoke privately about a sensitive topic with far-reaching implications — the Senate seat that John McCain held for three decades before his death in August.

Jon Kyl, the former senator Ducey appointed to replace McCain, made no promises about serving beyond this year. Most of his fellow Republicans are convinced he will not return in 2019 and Ducey will once again have to appoint a senator.

In a telephone call confirmed by two people familiar with the conversation, McConnell (R-Ky.) told Ducey: If there is an opening, consider appointing Martha McSally, the Republican congresswoman who came up short in her bid for Arizona’s other Senate seat this year.

On the call with Ducey, McConnell said McSally would make a great senator and noted there was a lot of support for her in the party. Ducey listened but made no commitments, according to the people familiar with the conversation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a discussion that was not publicized.

But some Republicans in Arizona, including those in Ducey’s inner circle, have reservations about appointing McSally. They have questioned her campaign’s strategic decisions and wondered why she was not able to win in a state that President Trump carried in 2016 and where Ducey coasted to reelection this year.

Dan Eberhart, an Arizona-based GOP donor who raised money for McSally, said Ducey should take a “hard look” at other possibilities after her defeat. “McSally’s recent but narrow loss is not a strong reason to choose her,” Eberhart said.

Take that (!) Laurie Roberts of The Republic, the most vocal advocate for election-loser Martha McSally being awarded the consolation prize of an appointment to John McCain’s senate seat. Eberhart just spiked your ridiculous argument to appoint McSally.

Governor Ducey loyalist Lea Marquez Peterson also lost her congressional race in CD 2. If losers are now to be awarded a consolation prize, why not appoint Marquez Peterson to McCain’s senate seat? She has the added advantage of being a Latina, and she is such a loyalist to Governor Ducey that she would gladly step aside in two years if Ducey wants to run for the Senate in 2020. McSally is aggressively ambitious. There is no way in hell she would ever step aside once she has snared a Senate seat that she has desired for years.

The dueling pressures have injected uncertainty into one of the most pivotal decisions Ducey could face as governor. Arizona is an emerging battleground in the presidential and Senate elections in 2020, loading his potential choice with ramifications throughout the ballot.

Facing a more challenging Senate map in 2020 than they did this year, Republican leaders are eager to lock down a strong Arizona contender who can represent the state and effectively use the power of incumbency to run a winning campaign in 2020. Many say ­McSally is the best choice.

* * *

Ducey has kept his thoughts private and limited his discussions to a small clutch of advisers. In public, he and his team are not even entertaining the idea of an appointment.

“The governor is hopeful that Senator Kyl will continue to serve in the Senate seat through 2020,” said his spokesman Daniel Ruiz. “We will not speculate on a vacancy that does not exist.”

Nevertheless, the possible vacancy has captured the interest of Republicans in Arizona and Washington, who have traded flurries of text messages and other communications about it in recent weeks.

One name that has surfaced as a potential appointee in private conversations is Kirk Adams, a former state House speaker who announced Monday that he was stepping down as Ducey’s chief of staff. [Adams’ name was tossed around frequently as someone Ducey might appoint to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by John McCain before the senator passed.] Adams said he was looking forward to returning to the private sector. Some Republicans said they still believed he could be appointed to the Senate.

Prior to serving as Ducey’s chief of staff, Adams served in the Arizona House of Representatives and was Speaker of the House for a two-year term that ended in 2011. He was responsible for passage of Governor Jan Brewer’s corporate welfare tax giveaway bill that was phased-in over four years and which has deprived the state of millions of dollars that could have otherwise been used to fund public education.

Even former Governor Jan Brewer has since expressed regret that “in hindsight, the size of those cuts were a mistake.” Jan Brewer: Corporate tax cuts she signed were a little ‘too aggressive’. “Of course, it was a little bit too aggressive,” she said. The result, Brewer said, has been a reduction in revenues needed for state services. “Sooner or later, you have to pay the fiddler,” she said.

Kirk Adams has had no such act of contrition over GOP tax cuts while serving Governor Ducey.

Adams also ran a failed congressional campaign in Arizona’s 5th District. He then accepted wingnut welfare from the “Kochtopus” by becoming a bagman for their dark money network, as I documented in this post. Dicey Doug Ducey is turning Arizona into ‘Kochtopia’ (excerpt):

Long-time readers will remember that I dubbed Kirk Adams during his tenure as Speaker of the House “Captain Kool-Aid” because he was a true believer in faith based supply-side “trickle down” GOP economics, just like Dicey Doug Ducey. The GOP’s double dose of poison to kill Arizona.

Adams and Ducey worked together [anti-Prop. 204] to defeat an education sales tax in 2012. While Ducey led the campaign against the measure, Adams was president of a political non-profit corporation, Americans for Responsible Leadership, that funneled nearly $1 million of money from undisclosed donors into the effort to crater the tax.

The money was widely believed to have come from the Koch brothers’ network through consultant Sean Noble.

Oh, this corrupt politician was far dirtier than that. I posted at length about Americans for Responsible Leadership’s activities in California at the time. Here is just a brief refresher. Americans for Responsible Leadership – a Koch brothers ‘dark money’ front group[.]

* * *

State Treasurer Doug Ducey, who is heading the anti-204 effort, said the current board also includes Kirk Adams, the former speaker of the Arizona House and, like Wnuck, an unsuccessful congressional candidate.

Ducey dismissed questions of whether Arizona voters are entitled to know who provided the $750,000 to his campaign. He said all he and the voters need to know is that the cash came from Americans for Responsible Leadership.

“If you want more detailed information beyond that, that really is a question for Americans for Responsible Leadership,” Ducey said.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission was not as cavalier and dismissive as was Dicey Doug Ducey:

Americans for Responsible Leadership, the Arizona non-profit corporation that made an anonymous $11 million donation to a California campaign committee, today sent a letter declaring itself to be the intermediary and not the true source of the contribution. It identified the true source of the contribution as Americans for Job Security, through a second intermediary, The Center to Protect Patient Rights. Under California law, the failure to disclose this initially was campaign money laundering. At $11 million, this is the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history.

And in an enforcement action by the FPPC:

Americans for Responsible Leadership and Center to Protect Patients Rights. On October 17, 2013, the Fair Political Practices Commission (“Commission”), in closed session, approved a civil settlement for the FPPC case Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL) and Center to Protect Patient’s Rights (CPPR), imposing a penalty in the amount of $1,000,000 for two counts (only one count applicable to ARL) of making a contribution in the name of another to the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC) and to the California Future Fund (CFF). Following the Commission’s approval, the Enforcement Division contacted SBAC and CFF and requested that they disgorge the contributions received, to the General Fund of the State of California, pursuant to Government Code section 85701. On January 24, 2014, the Enforcement Division entered into stipulated civil judgments, with SBAC and CFF for full payment of the required disgorgement. Additionally, the FPPC received a payment of $300,000 from SBAC towards their obligation. As required by law, the funds will be turned over to the General Fund of the State of California in connection with this matter.

More recently, Adams founded Prosper Inc., another “Kochtopus” front group that got money from Arizona Public Service Co. and other Carbon Monopoly dark money contributors to fight net- metering and solar energy policies. I posted about this at length as well. A sampling, ‘Kochtopus’ dark money and Arizona solar energy.

Arizona’s Politics has more on Kirk Adams’ “Kochtopus” dark money exploits in 2014. Noble’s Dark Money Washing Machine Cycled $5.1M Into Arizona Governor Race, Corp. Commission Issues In 2014, New Tax Filings Show (#50ShadesOfDarkMoney).

Adams went from “Kochtopus” dark money bagman in support of Ducey, to serving as a co-chair on Ducey’s transition team (as did Lea Marquez Peterson), to becoming Ducey’s chief of staff. Now he is in line to be rewarded with an appointment to John McCain’s senate seat (which presumes that Governor Ducey has no interest in the senate seat).

Back to The Post report:

Since the contest ended, Republicans in Washington and Arizona have expressed considerable disappointment in the outcome. They have voiced a range of complaints, including that McSally’s team did not more aggressively seize on opposition research about Sinema’s past to brand her an extremist and that she distanced herself too much from McCain in a state where many revere him.

In a post-election memo McSally’s campaign strategists provided to The Washington Post on Tuesday, they wrote that McSally “was continuously running at a disadvantage going into the general election” and cited factors such as robust Democratic spending and a bruising GOP primary.

“While true that Ducey outperformed McSally, Governor Ducey was an incumbent with two successful statewide races under his belt. Ducey ‘s opponent ran as a progressive and the opponent was essentially abandoned by national Democrats,” the memo says.

Sinema’s win will make her Arizona’s first Democratic senator in three decades. Her victory has generated excitement in the party. Already, there is talk about who might run for the Senate in 2020.

Democrats pointed to several possibilities, including Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; Rep. Ruben Gallego; and Grant Woods, a former chief of staff to McCain who served as state attorney general.

Woods, a Trump critic, said he recently became a Democrat and has moved closer to a run. “We’ve got an exploratory plan in place, and we’re executing it,” he said.

Woods has also started thinking about which Republican he might be trying to unseat and previewed a possible line of attack against McSally.

“The governor’s unusual in that he used to run an ice cream company and yet he always chooses vanilla,” said Woods, referring to Ducey’s time as the head of Cold Stone Creamery. “This would be your typical Washington, D.C.-influenced cynical pick, in my view. I think it would be a very poor pick, and I hope he doesn’t do it. And the reason is, the voters have spoken. She had her chance, and she lost.”

[A]nother unexpected twist might be coming up — including the possibility of Kyl staying on longer than many are anticipating.

Asked if he has set a deadline for his decision, Kyl replied: “No.”

And now we have a wild card to add to this mix, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. The muckraking Phoenix New Times reported Arizona Supreme Court Justice Urged Governor to Tap Bill Montgomery for Senate:

Arizona Supreme Court Associate Justice Clint Bolick urged Governor Doug Ducey to appoint Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to the U.S. Senate two days after the death of John McCain.

In text messages obtained by Phoenix New Times under state public records law, Bolick wrote to Ducey on August 27, asking him to tap the polarizing Republican prosecutor for McCain’s Senate seat.

“I hope you will consider Bill Montgomery, one of the few who could fill Sen. McCain’s shoes,” Bolick wrote. “He is respected by everyone, supported by all parts of the GOP, yet unfailingly conservative. Wicked smart, principled, West Point, very modest beginnings, young enough to be there for a long time. Can work across the aisle.”

“Bill has not asked me to do this; to the contrary it would require an appeal to his sense of duty,” Bolick added.

Bolick described Montgomery as “conservative to my libertarian yet there are few I respect more, very much in the mold of [former U.S. Senator] Jon Kyl.”

None of this is transparent. It will all occur behind closed doors in secret among  GOP power brokers. And for two years (at least) Arizonans will be forced to live with Governor Ducey’s choice. We will know before the first of the new year.

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