In a close race that took several days to finally call, Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema has now officially won the U.S. Senate race in Arizona over Republican candidate Martha McSally. This has led to a whole lot of mainstream media speculation that the Arizona GOP might try to shoehorn McSally into the Senate after all, by putting her in the other seat. This is entirely possible – but if it does happen, it may not matter much.
Arizona has a unique Senate situation. Republican John McCain passed away earlier this year, vacating a seat that he was supposed to hold until 2022. This prompted the state’s GOP Governor to appoint familiar Republican face Jon Kyl in his place, while scheduling a special election for 2020. As this was going on, Republican Jeff Flake announced his retirement, setting up a 2018 Senate race in Arizona with no incumbent. Sinema won, meaning that Arizona has gone from having two Republican Senators, to one Republican and one Democratic Senator.
The story goes that Kyl – who by all accounts doesn’t want the seat for the long haul – could step down, allowing the Governor to appoint Martha McSally in his place. This would create the surreal situation in which Kyrsten Sinema, and the opponent she just defeated, would be the state’s two Senators. But this would still give Arizona one Democratic and one Republican Senator, meaning that swapping Kyl for McSally wouldn’t change the overall Senate math at all.
The only appreciable change is that it would set up Martha McSally as an incumbent, so she could run for “reelection” in the 2020 special election. We believe she was going to run for that seat in 2020 anyway. The GOP could be thinking that making her an incumbent could boost her 2020 odds. But from the Democrats’s point of view, they just finished proving they can beat McSally in Arizona, and perhaps wouldn’t mind facing her again in two years.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report