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