Monday, February 18, 2008

If John McCain Steps Down... Could It Be Sen. Jan Brewer?

There has been some speculation about Sen. John McCain vacating his U.S. Senate seat once he secures the GOP presidential nomination in order to concentrate all his effort on winning the White House and remove the inevitable gamesmanship by the Democratic majority in the Senate (pointing out missed votes, etc.) Sort of replaying Bob Dole's decision in 1996!

Regardless of this rumor's accuracy, if he does win in November, Sen. McCain would need to resign his seat before inauguration day. Either way, Arizona’s Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano would have to appoint a Republican to fill the remaining two-years of his term.

Napolitano has long eyed that Senate seat for herself. Speculation has assumed that John McCain would not run for another term in 2010, especially after he achieves one of his remaining two goals: the first, securing the GOP nomination for president seems assured; the second, winning the presidency is to be decided.

What to do, what to do? Napolitano must be asking herself.

She’s a very smart political operative. She’ll think about all the angles before making her decision on any senatorial opening.

Does she go for an ideological match in order to impact policy? Does she place a chair-warmer in the seat who would not or could not pose a significant challenge to her likely 2010 run for the seat?

There are many ways to go but I suspect that Gov. Napolitano’s best political play for her own career would be appointing Arizona’s highest ranking Republican statewide officeholder. That’s right, Secretary of State Jan Brewer for replacement senator, especially if the move necessitates a 2008 special election.

Here's my reasoning... in sending Jan Brewer to DC as senator, it in no way disabuses the half-dozen-plus Republicans that have been eying that seat for more than a decade from running in a contested primary. They will be running hard (and dirty?) for the GOP nomination regardless of Sen. Jan Brewer keeping the seat warm. This serves Napolitano’s interests by weakening the eventual nominee and exposing huge riffs within the Arizona Republican Party.

The real beauty of this scenario for Napolitano is that it necessitates at least one other appointment, Jan Brewer’s replacement for the big office on the 7th Floor. This person too would have to be a Republican but he or she would be removed from the succession because of their appointment rather than election to the office. Remember, then-Attorney General Bruce Babbitt became governor when Governor and former-Secretary of State Wesley Bolin died in office and his appointed successor at State (Rose Mofford) couldn’t take the big chair (in that instance, she would a decade later).

Appointing Brewer to the U.S. Senate puts current Democrat Attorney General Terry Goddard one heartbeat away from the big office on the 9th Floor.

If McCain resigns early and loses the presidency, this scenario continues to serve Napolitano’s interests. If it’s Barack Obama winning over McCain, there is a good chance the new president-elect takes her to Washington with him as Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, etc. The gubernatorial succession issue (handing over the office to a Republican) is gone as the office falls to the elected Attorney General rather than the appointed Secretary of State.

Come 2010, incumbent Gov. Terry Goddard runs for re-election… er… election for a full term in his own right!

Moreover, Gov. Goddard will most likely have appointed a strong candidate to succeed him (say, Napolitano's Chief of Staff Dennis Burke) and the Democratic ascendancy in Arizona politics continues.

Think about it.

It could happen.

I’m an elected Republican precinct committeeman, state committeeman, and 2nd Vice Chairman of the Legislative District 20 Republican Party. I don’t relish the prospect of a continued strong Democratic Party effort up and down the Arizona ballot. But we Arizona Republicans have to come to terms with the fact that the days of pushover contests are over.

1 comment:

Audra said...

You write very well.