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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 
States Senate."

   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."

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