As Arizonans prepare for their final salute to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Republicans and political pundits in the state privately tell Newsmax they expect the appointment of his wife, Cindy, to succeed him in the Senate.
Of course, no one in the Grand Canyon State who spoke to us wants to go on record discussing what will happen when the ailing McCain no longer holds his seat. But those who did, agree almost unanimously, Cindy McCain following John in the Senate through appointment by Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., is a near certainty.
"I've always assumed that was the arrangement," said a friend of the McCain family since John's 1973 return from captivity in Vietnam.
A former Republican senator who served with McCain agreed:
"I don't know if this [succession] has been formalized, but that's what people who know John tell me."
(Both of those who spoke to Newsmax did so under promise of anonymity).
One source close to the McCain family said supporters of the senator have quietly let Gov. Ducey know Cindy is the choice of "Team McCain."
Others mentioned for appointment include: Ducey's top aide Kirk Adams, a former speaker of the state House of Representatives; and Karrin Taylor Robson, multi-millionaire businesswoman and member of the State Board of Regents.
Because of the time factor involved in a Senate seat opening in Arizona, speculation has begun to mount about what will happen when the Senate seat Republican McCain has held since 1986 finally is open.
Should the seat become open before June 1, state law requires a special election this fall. Democrats from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., make little secret of their desire of having another Senate seat on the fall ballot in 2018 because they sense it is a good year for the party outside the White House.
However, if the vacancy in the seat occurs after June 1, state law says the appointee may serve more than two years and a special election would be held in 2020. (McCain won his sixth term in 2016 and this term will not expire until 2022).
Although Cindy McCain is best-known as the wife of the maverick senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, friends remind us she is also an accomplished business and community leader. Following the death of her father, Jim Hensley, in 2000, Cindy assumed the chairmanship and majority control of Hensley and Company (one of the nation's largest Anheuser-Busch beer distributorships).
Moreover, she has been an active strategist and campaigner for her husband since his first bid for the U.S. House in 1982. Veteran GOP activists believe the Hensley family's widespread financial and political contacts were pivotal to McCain — who had lived in Arizona less than a year — winning a hard-fought primary over three seasoned office-holders.
Since 1931, eight wives of U.S. senators succeeded their husbands. Often, the appointment has been seen as a sign senators can extend their power after their death. Democrats Rose Long of Louisiana (named to succeed husband, Huey, following his assassination in 1935) and Muriel Humphrey (appointed to replace late husband, Hubert, in 1978) are cases in point.
The last senatorial wife to assume the office herself was an unusual case.
Following his death in a plane crash in October 2000, Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan's name remained on the Missouri ballot, and he actually defeated Republican Sen. John Ashcroft. Missouri's new governor later declared the seat vacant and appointed Carnahan's widow, Jean, to fill it.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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