Two months ago, expectations were that Jon Kyl was going to run for reelection, easily defeating any Republican primary challenger (likely a tea party type) and face, perhaps, Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the general election.
What a difference two months, a bullet from a would-be assassin, and a retirement announcement make.
Now, next year's AZ Senate race, and as a result, possibly many down-ballot races, is wide open.
Some names you are sure to hear bandied about in the coming days and week (and in the interests of avoiding actual journalistic activity, no potential candidates were contacted for this piece :) ) -
Republican Jeff Flake - current CD6 Congressman and presumed to be one of the GOP establishment's favorites when it comes to replacing Kyl. Has been patiently waiting his turn. Probably *the* favorite right now.
Republican John Shadegg - former CD3 Congressman and currently with the Goldwater Institute. Also a GOP establishment favorite.
Republican JD Hayworth - nativist, former Congressman (Hayworth lost to Democrat Harry Mitchell in 2006), challenger to John McCain (Hayworth was crushed in the 2010 primary), former local TV news sports anchor, and current radio talk show host. A favorite candidate of the Hayworth clan. Might run, probably won't win the GOP primary.
Republican Ben Quayle - current CD3 Congressman. A freshman member of Congress with no accomplishments, either before or during his political career, but his father is Dan Quayle, who brings a lot of money and contacts into his son's camp. Probably not going to run this time, will wait for McCain to retire (gotta happen sometime this century, right? :) ).
Republican Trent Franks - current CD2 Congressman. One issue candidate/public official (anti-choice) and not known as the brightest star in the nighttime sky. Having said that, could go for it, depending on what his district looks like after redistricting.
Republican Jan Brewer - Current Arizona Governor. Not the quickest thinker or the most adept public speaker, but that didn't make a difference in the 2010 election. She's term-limited and cannot seek reelection in 2014, so if she has any more political ambitions, this would be her best shot. Under AZ law, would have to resign to run. BTW - before anyone thinks I am unfairly insulting her with the comments about "quick thinking" and her public speaking ability, I am fully cognizant of the fact that she has been in one elected office or another for most of the last three decades. She may not dazzle anyone with her intellect or speeches, but she's got some game.
Republicans Paul Gosar and David Schweikert - current CD1 and CD5 Congressmen, respectively. Could happen, but both are relatively young and freshmen in Congress. Probably will focus on defending their redistricted seats.
Democrat Janet Napolitano - former Arizona Governor and current US Secretary of Homeland Security. If she returns to AZ and runs, she automatically becomes the favorite in any Democratic primary. Known as incredibly smart and pragmatic/centrist. DC connections give her access to lots of campaign $$. May be the best candidate for downballot Democrats because she had long coattails when on the ballot here in the past.
Democrat Harry Mitchell - former CD5 Congressman, State Senator, Mayor of Tempe, and career school teacher. A favorite of everyone who knows him. May be more likely to go for a return match with Schweikert.
Democrats Cathy Eden, John Dougherty, Randy Parraz, and Rodney Glassman - all ran for the D nomination in 2010, to challenge John McCain. Glassman won the primary and was trounced in the general. Glassman seems likely to run for Mayor of Tucson at this point. Don't know much about the others.
Democrat Phil Gordon - current (and soon-to-be former) Mayor of Phoenix. Perhaps the purest "old school" politician of this entire list, has the best machine in the state's biggest city. However, he's got some serious baggage ("city contracts to his girlfriend" kind of stuff) and is *not* a favorite of the Democratic grassroots outside of Phoenix. Could run (he's not likely to have anything better to do next year), but probably won't get through a D primary if he enters the race.
Democrat Raul Grijalva - current CD7 Congressman. A favorite of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Not sure if his popularity within his district would translate to a statewide run. On the other hand, given the changing demographics of AZ's electorate, if there is a pushback against the nativists in the legislature and the GOP as a whole, the wave could carry him to the US Senate. Not likely, but a Grijalva candidacy shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
Democrat Terry Goddard - former AZ Attorney General and 2010 candidate for Governor. Well-liked by AZ Dems and well-respected within the Attorney General community, was rumored to be a possible candidate to challenge Kyl.
Wild Card: Democrat Gabrielle Giffords - current CD8 Congresswoman. Five weeks ago, she would have been the odds-on favorite to win a D primary, and a strong contender in the general election against any R. Now, it all depends on her recovery from the assassination attempt in Tucson.
If she has a full or near-full recovery, she will be near-unstoppable in a D primary (only Napolitano would have a real chance against her), and be the likely favorite in a general election against any of the Rs.
However, the fact that she survived a bullet through her brain is a miracle, and expecting anything more is just being greedy. Her recovery thus far has been incredible, but plateaus and even setbacks *will* happen. She has a long way to go before she is ready for a statewide campaign. She (and we) will know more by late summer/early fall.
And even that is assuming that she still *wants* a Senate seat after everything that has happened.
Other names to consider, all of whom seem unlikely to run:
Democrat Ed Pastor, current CD4 Congressman
Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, former CD1 Congresswoman
Republicans "Buz" Mills and John Munger, 2010 candidates for Governor. Lots of money.
Republican Tom Horne - current AZ AG. Wants to be Governor.
Republican Ken Bennett - current AZ Secretary of State. Not sure if he wants it, but probably wouldn't have a problem with Brewer going for it - he'd become Governor if she did.
I know there are names that I've missed, but there will be time to discuss those in the coming weeks. Feel free to include them in any comments.
BTW - don't expect today's announcement to quell any "Kyl for VP" whispers - at his announcement press conference, he spoke about an "opportunity to do something else". Quotes like this won't help either.