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What happens if McCain resigns?


With U.S. Sen. John McCain facing a diagnosis of malignant brain cancer, what happens to Arizona's seat in the U.S. Senate if he steps down, or dies in office?

While the U.S. Constitution mandates that vacancies in the House of Representatives be filled by elections, it leaves to each state how to fill empty seats in the Senate.

In Arizona, the governor appoints an interim senator in the case of a vacancy. That senator serves through the next scheduled statewide general election, with the winning candidate in that vote serving the remainder of the original term in office, unless the original term was set to expire at that election.

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The interim appointee must be of the same party as the vacating senator.

In McCain's case, if he were to resign this year, Gov. Doug Ducey would appoint a Republican to take the seat through November 2018. There would be an election held in November 2018 to determine who would hold the seat through the end of 2022, when the seat would return to its regular six-year cycle of terms.

Related: 'Cancer doesn't know what it's up against' — leaders react to McCain's cancer

Complicating the politics of the situation in Arizona is the other Senate seat. U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake's term ends next year, raising the prospect of there being two Senate elections taking place at the same time.

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Senators serve six-year terms, which are staggered so that only one-third of the entire body is up for election at a time. House members, by contrast, serve two years, with the entire group up for election every cycle.

McCain was reelected to a sixth term in 2016, with his term running through 2022. Flake was elected in 2012, with his term up next year.

If McCain's seat became vacant after the 2018 election cycle, the interim appointee would serve through 2020, or the end of the term, depending on the timing of the appointment.

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1 comment on this story

Jul 19, 2017, 7:31 pm
-1 +3

He won’t resign.

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