Sen. Jon Kyl's Retirement To Trigger Rush For Seat : It's All Politics Kyl's retirement will likely create a rush for his seat; the first opening since 1994. But the seat is likely to remain in Republican hands since the state has historically tended towards the GOP in state-wide races.
NPR logo Sen. Jon Kyl's Retirement To Trigger Rush For Seat

Sen. Jon Kyl's Retirement To Trigger Rush For Seat

Sen. Jon Kyl in Phoenix announcing his retirement as wife, Caryll Kyle, listens, Feb. 10, 2011. Matt York/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

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Sen. Jon Kyl in Phoenix announcing his retirement as wife, Caryll Kyle, listens, Feb. 10, 2011.


Now that Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, has said he won't run for a fourth term, the attention turns to the race to succeed him.

There's much pent-up demand in Arizona because Kyl's announcement Thursday means there'll be an open Senate seat from Arizona for the first time since 1994.

Kyl, 68, is the junior senator to Sen. John McCain, 74, a U.S. senator since 1987.

The Arizona Republic provides some possibilities for Kyl successors. The Republic mentions Rep. Jeff Flake, former Rep. John Shadegg, Rep. Trent Franks, former state attorney general Grant Woods, former state treasurer Dean Martin and Pinal Country Sheriff Paul Babel.

Republicans presumably have the advantage in a state that has preferred Republicans more than Democrats in state-wide races.

But political contests are more often than not about candidates. So the result would obviously hinge on who the eventual Republican and Democratic nominees are.

On the Democratic side, the Republic drops the following names. Former Gov. Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Secretary; former state Democratic chair Jim Pederson; former state attorney general candidate Felecia Rotellini.

In a sad endnote, the Republic observes that before she was nearly killed in an assassination attempt, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was mentioned as a strong possibility.

If she did recover to the point where she could campaign, that would obviously add to the miraculous nature of her already awe-inspiring recovery.

Of Kyl, the Almanac for American Politics says:

Jon Kyl is Arizona's junior senator, and although he's often overshadowed by his home-state colleague John McCain, Kyl is a political force in his own right. He was the unanimous choice of his colleagues in late 2007 for minority whip, the No. 2 ranking post in the Senate Republican leadership. Unlike McCain, Kyl prefers to operate behind the scenes and relies on intellect rather than emotion to get his points across. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, lauding Kyl in Time magazine in 2010, said, "Jon demonstrates continually that the essence of Senate power is the power to persuade."

Kyl said he was retiring for no other reason than he wanted to do something else.

The Arizona Republic reported the explanation Kyl gave at his news conference in Phoenix:

"Let me hasten to say that there is nothing negative about the decision that I am making," Kyl said. "My health is good. I'm fairly confident that if I ran for re-election again that I could be re-elected. I do not subscribe to this notion that politics has gotten so coarse these days that civil people can't engage in it. I try to do it civilly, and learned long ago that there will be people who don't engage in civil discourse, but if you (let that stop you) from serving, then you really ought to get into another line of work. There's nothing about that that causes me to step down. ... There is no reason, other than the fact that I think it's time."

He said immigration reform is among the issues he would like to tackle in the time he has left in office. He ruled out bids for governor or president but reiterated that he would consider a vice presidential nomination.
His wife Caryll Kyl quipped that "he'll do yardwork" when he retires.