Nearly 13 months after he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of aggressive cancer in the brain, Sen. John McCain of Arizona died on Saturday at age 81.
While he’d been absent from the Senate for months as he battled the illness, with his passing comes the time when the governor of McCain’s home state must fill the vacant Senate seat with an appointee who will serve until 2020 before facing an election. The governor, Doug Ducey, is a Republican and therefore will appoint someone from the GOP.
While there are several well-qualified candidates in the mix, one person on the list has prompted much speculation: McCain’s widow, Cindy.
“Rumors are circulating that Cindy could step in, but other names are being floated too,” a Capitol Hill “insider” told People magazine. “Some are more or less qualified than others.”
Cindy McCain is one of those “less qualified” candidates.
Cindy McCain, 64, is chairman of her family’s beer distribution business, the Hensley Beverage Co. (she’s reportedly worth $300 million). She has also been an advocate against human trafficking, and while her husband was sick filled in for him at public events. “In the Senate, she could represent her husband’s legacy while pursuing her own priorities,” the Arizona Republican wrote.
But here’s why that’s a terrible idea: The U.S. Senate isn’t a family beer company. And who cares about “her own priorities,” anyway?!
There’s no reason why McCain’s widow is best suited to fill the position. In fact, the other names on the short list being bandied about include former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, along with Kirk Adams, a former state lawmaker and speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and former Rep. John Shadegg, first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 as part of the “Republican Revolution.”
Still, the Arizona Republic touts Cindy McCain’s filling in for her sick husband as a reason she “would be an obvious choice to fill her husband’s seat.”
“In February, Cindy McCain accepted the Munich Security Conference’s Ewald von Kleist Award on behalf of her husband. In March, she read a statement on his behalf at a ceremony unveiling the Salt River development he has advocated for. Later, she appeared on his behalf at a ceremony honoring her husband and the late U.S. Rep. Morris Udall at Grand Canyon National Park.”
Again, so what? None of that makes her qualified to sit in the U.S. Senate. It’s time to end “widow succession” (more than 40 women have taken over for their husbands following their deaths, including eight in the Senate). While some widows take on a “caretaker” role — serving to keep the party from infighting until someone can be duly elected — widows have no more right to the seat than someone who has spent a lifetime in public service.
What’s more, with the margin in the Senate super thin, this is no time to insert a political neophyte into the picture.
To be sure, Cindy McCain is a terribly nice person, but let’s face it — she’s hardly qualified to take over for her husband who served six terms in the Senate. That’s like saying the wife of a welder can jump into his job just because she’s been around welding much of her life. The people who serve in the Senate are mostly lifelong politicians who have worked their way up the ranks for 20 or 30 years. Why should a widow with not a minute of experience in government simply be appointed to the post?
The process is in the early stages and Ducey says he won’t begin serious consideration until after McCain is buried later this week. But the governor ought to pick someone who has devoted his or her life to politics. Cindy McCain can certainly run for her husband’s seat in 2020 and let the people decide.
Until then, appoint someone who can do the job. She can’t.