How Arizona Republicans' New Senate Move Could Be Very Bad For Women

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With John McCain's health in a precarious state, Arizona Republicans are considering the possibility that two Arizona seats could be on the ballot this fall. But the Arizona GOP wants to keep McCain's Senate seat from falling into the hands of a Democrat — even if it means keeping it off the ballot entirely. That move could keep women from winning the seat this November.

The party is trying to change the rules on replacing a senator. Currently, if McCain were to leave his seat before May 31, his replacement would be on the November ballot. But Republicans want to change that deadline up so that even if McCain were to retire now, the seat wouldn't be on the ballot until 2020.

Of course, there's already a Senate seat open on the November ballot, the one that currently belongs to retiring Sen. Jeff Flake. The leading Democrat in the fight for the open seat is a woman: Kyrsten Sinema.

But she's not the only woman running for the ticket. If a second seat were to open up, it could potentially allow two women to win senate seats in the state.

Democratic candidates Cheryl Fowler and Deedra Abboud, who are running for Flake's seat could put potentially run for McCain's seat instead, given that Sinema is the clear favorite for the first seat. And depending on how the Republican primary looks — not to mention Sinema's general election poll numbers — one or more of the Republican women currently vying for Flake's seat could run for McCain's instead. But that won't be an option if the Arizona GOP gets its way.

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The immediate replacement of McCain would be appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican. That person would serve temporarily whether or not the state Republicans change the rules. The only difference is whether the appointee serves until 2018 or 2020.

Arizona Democratic state senator Steve Farley told The Guardian that the move to change the date to 2020 is all about politics. “The effect of this bill would be to allow a Republican to serve in that [US] Senate seat without standing for election in a year when things aren’t looking like they’re going well for Republicans,” he told the paper.

Farley, who is running for governor this fall, told The Hill that this "disenfranchises" voters. "I keep seeing members of the Republican majority taking away people’s voting rights in every different way,” he told The Hill. “It’s been an ongoing series of efforts to try to disenfranchise the voters of Arizona, and it’s got to stop.”

There is, of course, the possibility that Ducey could appoint a woman to fill McCain's seat. The senator's wife, Cindy McCain, has been mentioned as a possibility. But a "widow's appointment" does not allow the same opportunity for a woman politician as vying for a win at the ballot box would — and there's no suggestion that Cindy wants a political future.

As for all the speculation on what will happen to McCain's seat, some are incensed that it's even up for debate before McCain decided to step down — even with the latest bad news surrounding his health. His daughter Meghan McCain, a co-host on The View, flew home last week after McCain was hospitalized after a surgery for an intestinal infection.

Back in December, Ducey criticized politicians who voiced their interest in the Senate seat. “To the politicians out there that have been openly lobbying for this position, they’ve basically disqualified themselves by showing their true character," Ducey said in a radio interview.

Democrats are likely to block the move to change the date. Republicans need a two-thirds majority to pass the legislation. Having the vote in November, would leave it up to the people. And it might allow another woman to head to Washington.