AZ Sen. Race Could Impact Justice Conf.09/20 12:18
PHOENIX (AP) -- If Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly wins a seat in the U.S.
Senate, he could take office as early as Nov. 30, shrinking the GOP's Senate
majority at a crucial moment and complicating the path to confirmation for
President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee.
Kelly has maintained a consistent polling lead over Republican Sen. Martha
McSally, who was appointed to the seat held by John McCain, who died in 2018.
Because the contest is a special election to finish McCain's term, the
winner could be sworn in as soon as the results are officially certified. Other
winners in the November election won't take office until January.
Trump has pledged to nominate a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
a liberal icon who died Friday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
vowed that Trump's nominee "will receive a vote on the floor of the United
If Kelly wins, the timing when he formally takes office could be crucial in
determining who replaces Ginsburg. It could eliminate a Republican vote in
favor of Trump's nominee --- the GOP currently has 53 seats in the 100-member
chamber --- or require McConnell to speed up the nomination process.
With McSally in the Senate, four GOP defections could defeat a nomination,
while a tie vote could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
McSally quickly laid down a marker, declaring on Twitter within hours of the
announcement of Ginsberg's death that "this U.S. Senate should vote on
President Trump's next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court."
She has not elaborated on whether the confirmation vote should come before
or after the election. But she highlighted the renewed stakes of her race in a
fundraising pitch on Saturday.
"If Mark Kelly comes out on top, HE could block President Trump's Supreme
Court Nominee from being confirmed," she wrote.
Democrats in 2018 found success in Arizona, a state long dominated by the
GOP, by appealing to Republicans and independent voters disaffected with Trump.
The Supreme Court vacancy could shake up the race and boost McSally's lagging
campaign by keeping those voters in her camp.
Kelly said late Saturday that "the people elected to the presidency and
Senate in November should fill this vacancy."
"When it comes to making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,
Washington shouldn't rush that process for political purposes," Kelly said in a
Arizona law requires election results to be officially certified on the
fourth Monday after the election, which falls this year on Nov. 30. The
certification could be delayed up to three days if the state has not received
election results from any of the 15 counties.
Mary O'Grady, a Democratic lawyer with expertise in election law, said the
deadlines are firm and there's little room for delay.
"I don't see ambiguity here," said O'Grady, who was Arizona's solicitor
general under two Democratic attorneys general.
Arizona law allows recounts and election challenges only under very limited
circumstances, she said.
"Usually, the Secretary of the Senate's office goes out of its way to
accommodate the new senators coming in," former Senate Historian Don Ritchie
told The Arizona Republic, which first reported on the prospect for Kelly
taking office early a day before Ginsburg's death. "The old senator is out of
their office there. I mean, they actually literally put a lock on the door so
their staff can't go in."