After Sen. John McCain‘s family announced on Friday that he was discontinuing treatment for brain cancer, the war hero and longtime politician died on Saturday at the age of 81. While the nation mourns, people are also left wondering: Who will carry the six-term Republican senator’s torch?
Sen. McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, 64, is one possible replacement, a Capitol Hill source tells PEOPLE.
“Rumors are circulating that Cindy could step in, but other names are being floated too,” the insider says. “Some are more or less qualified than others.”
Addressing Mrs. McCain’s qualifications — she’s an anti-human trafficking activist and philanthropist — the source added, “There are times on the Hill when politics matter. This is one of those times. Everyone is waiting to see what happens.”
Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, 54, is responsible for filling Senate vacancies until a special election is held in 2020, according to state law. The winner of that election would serve the remainder of McCain’s six-year term, which ends in January 2023 following a fall election.
Like Sen. McCain, the replacement will have to be a Republican.
Gov. Ducey said in a statement that he would not name a successor until after Sen. McCain is buried on Sept. 1
“Out of respect for the life and legacy of Senator John McCain and his family, Governor Ducey will not be making any announcements about an appointment until after the senator is laid to rest,” said Daniel Ruiz, a spokesman for Ducey, according to the Washington Post. “Now is a time for remembering and honoring a consequential life well lived.”
In the year since McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer, Gov. Ducey has refused to talk about who he might appoint to the seat. Gov. Ducey, who is running for reelection this fall, did state he will not appoint himself.
After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2012, Kirk Adams, 45, might be a fit for the job. He is currently working as Ducey’s chief of staff and previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives, where he was Speaker from 2009 to 2011.
Another name in the mix is Barbara Barrett, 67, the chair of the Aerospace Corporation and former U.S. Ambassador to Finland. She was the first woman Republican to run for governor of Arizona in 1994.
The Arizona Republic reports other possible contenders include Jon Kyl, who served alongside McCain in the Senate from 1995 to 2013; state Treasurer Eileen Klein; Karrin Taylor Robson, a real estate development president at Arizona Strategies; former Rep. John Shadegg; and former Rep. Matt Salmon.