Ducey out for Se­nate, so who will get the job?

The Arizona Republic - - Valley & state - Lau­rie Roberts

To the sur­prise of ab­so­lutely no one who fol­lows Ari­zona pol­i­tics, Gov. Doug Ducey on Mon­day said he won’t be run­ning for the Se­nate in 2020.

“I was elected to be gover­nor,” Ducey said Mon­day in an in­ter­view on KTAR’s “Mac and Gay­dos.” “I plan on be­ing gover­nor for the next four years.”

That’s not some­thing Ducey would have said so defini­tively a month ago, as vi­sions, per­haps, of a high-pro­file Cabi­net-level po­si­tion danced in his head.

But then Demo­crat Katie Hobbs won the elec­tion for sec­re­tary of state, mak­ing her next in line to be gover­nor — and send­ing Ducey’s dreams up in smoke. For now, at least.

As po­lit­i­cally am­bi­tious as Ducey is — to be fair, as ev­ery gover­nor is — there’s no way he would stick it to his party and aban­don ship, a la Janet Napoli­tano.

Democrats still hold a grudge against the Demo­cratic gover­nor who quit mid­way through her sec­ond term in Jan­uary 2009 to be­come Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary, leav­ing a re­ces­sion-plagued state in the hands of Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Jan Brewer.

It would be an­other decade be­fore a Demo­crat again won a statewide race.

What now for Ari­zona’s sec­ond Se­nate seat?

It seems ev­i­dent that Sen. Jon Kyl will re­sign the seat he has held since the death of Sen. John McCain at year’s end.

It seems equally ev­i­dent that Ducey’s job will be to ap­point a Repub­li­can who not only can fill the seat, but also can hold it in 2020, when Democrats will mount a cam­paign to snag it.

Trans­la­tion: Kelli Ward need not ap­ply.

So who will get the call? Here’s my list of top con­tenders:

1. Martha McSally. More than a mil­lion Ari­zona vot­ers wanted her in the Se­nate, giv­ing her a good base from which to run. Add in the fact that Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell wants her, and that’s got to play big in her fa­vor.

Then again, a mil­lion Ari­zona vot­ers

didn’t vote for McSally, whose de­ci­sion to hitch her star to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was a turnoff for the mod­er­ate Repub­li­can women and in­de­pen­dents who handed the seat to Demo­crat Kyrsten Sinema.

To have any chance at a 2020 elec­tion, Ari­zona vot­ers would have to see a more mod­er­ate Martha, one who isn’t afraid to buck the pres­i­dent when it’s called for.

2. Kirk Adams. Ducey’s soon-tobe-ex-chief of staff is a long­time politi­cian and would, no doubt, jump at the job. The for­mer Ari­zona speaker would have loads of cash, hav­ing pre­vi­ously run a “dark money” op­er­a­tion funded by the Koch brothers’ net­work.

But he’s largely un­known around the state and was un­suc­cess­ful when he ran for Congress in 2012, de­feated in the GOP pri­mary by Matt Salmon.

3. Eileen Klein. Ducey ap­pointed her as state trea­surer when Jeff DeWit left to be­come NASA CEO. Pre­vi­ously, she was bud­get direc­tor and chief of staff to Brewer and went on to be­come pres­i­dent of the Board of Re­gents, which over­sees Ari­zona’s $5 bil­lion state univer­sity sys­tem. Be­fore work­ing for the state, she was chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for Unit­edHealth­care’s Ari­zona Physi­cians IPA.

Like Adams, she’s not well-known out­side of political cir­cles. But she’s smart and a fresh face who could at­tract mod­er­ate vot­ers, and that’s got to play big in Ducey’s think­ing.

4. Kar­rin Tay­lor Rob­son. Ducey ap­pointed her to the Board of Re­gents last year, to fill the seat va­cated by Greg Pat­ter­son. Her back­ground is real estate devel­op­ment, and she and her hus­band, de­vel­oper Ed Rob­son, are big con­trib­u­tors to the Repub­li­can Party. (She’s also the daugh­ter of for­mer Se­nate Pres­i­dent Carl Ku­nasek.)

While she isn’t well-known in gen­eral cir­cles, she’d have two years to in­tro­duce her­self and plenty of money to mount a strong cam­paign in 2020.

5. Mari­copa County At­tor­ney Bill Mont­gomery. He’s close with Ducey and with the folks who ad­vise Ducey, up to and in­clud­ing Supreme Court Jus­tice Clint Bolick. But is he the strong­est can­di­date who can ap­peal to those all-im­por­tant mod­er­ate vot­ers?

It’s any­body’s guess who will get the job. Me? I’m guess­ing McSally, if Ducey wants to curry fa­vor. Or Klein, if he wants to avoid an anti-Trump tu­mult.

Bot­tom line: McSally.

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