How Martha McSally could end up in the Senate even though she lost the election

PHOTO: Republican Senate candidate Rep. Martha McSally greets voters in a holding room outside of her election night party in Phoenix, Nov. 6, 2018.PlayNicole Neri/Reuters
WATCH Martha McSally concedes Arizona Senate race to Kyrsten Sinema

Rep. Martha McSally received widespread praise from people on both sides of the political aisle for her concession speech Monday night in which she bowed out of the tight race for Arizona's Senate seat.

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The laudatory reaction prompted widespread speculation that she might be leaving the door open for a future foray back into politics.

But with the current state of Arizona politics, there's a possible scenario wherein she could re-enter the scene sooner than expected -- and possibly become a colleague of the woman who just beat her in the last race.

McSally and now-Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema battled it out over the seat that was left open when Sen. Jeff Flake decided not to seek re-election.

Months after that campaign started, Sen. John McCain passed away, but that happened after the state deadline that would allow for his replacement to be elected as part of the 2018 midterms.

As a result, the governor was tasked with picking a temporary placeholder for McCain's seat. Gov. Doug Ducey announced on Sept. 4 that former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who served alongside McCain from 1995 to 2013, would take temporary control of McCain's seat.

PHOTO: Arizona governor Doug Ducey nominates Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl to be the successor to John McCain in the U.S. Senate at the Governors office in Phoenix, Sept. 4, 2018. David Wallace/The Arizona Republic via USA Today Network, FILE
Arizona governor Doug Ducey nominates Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl to be the successor to John McCain in the U.S. Senate at the Governor's office in Phoenix, Sept. 4, 2018.

That said, 76-year-old Kyl only committed to serving in McCain's seat through the remainder of this session of Congress, which ends on Jan. 3, 2019.

State law dictates that it will fall to Ducey, who was just re-elected, to appoint someone of McCain's same political party to hold the seat until the next general election.

As such, it's within reason and the law to think that Ducey could appoint McSally, who is a Republican like McCain was, to hold his seat until the 2020 election.

Neither Ducey's office nor McSally's campaign returned ABC News' requests for comment.

Richard Herrera, a political science professor at Arizona State University, said that the close nature of the recent Senate race could help make McSally a front-runner.

"I think it's very plausible," Herrera said.

"I would think she's the favorite," he added, noting that the close nature of the Senate race and McSally's support for President Donald Trump could be helpful advantages for her.

"She checks a lot of boxes," Herrera said.

PHOTO: Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican who is running for Senate, and Gov. Doug Ducey, who is running for re-election, speak before a pancake breakfast with supporters in a mall in Prescott, Ariz., Nov. 4, 2018. Ilana Panich-Linsman/The New York Times via Redux/FILE
Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican who is running for Senate, and Gov. Doug Ducey, who is running for re-election, speak before a pancake breakfast with supporters in a mall in Prescott, Ariz., Nov. 4, 2018.

And while the Senate race between McSally and Sinema did get nasty -- with McSally claiming during their debate that Sinema made treasonous comments -- McSally ended it on a gracious note, posting a kind video congratulating Sinema and saying that she "wish[ed] her all success" in the Senate.

Matthew Dowd, who was a strategist for George Bush's 2004 presidential campaign and the current political analyst for ABC News, said that McSally's concession speech "should be lauded."

"It is a good and necessary move in a bitter divisive environment. I always give the presumption to someone that they are being genuine, and being from the military I think McSally supports the democratic norms," Dowd said.

Democratic political strategist and former interim chairperson of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile retweeted McSally's video, writing "this is what civility looks like," and praising McSally later to ABC News.

"She clearly invoked the spirit of John McCain," Brazile said of McSally. "As a Veteran, she understands what it means to serve. Her calling continues."

Herrera also thought it could indicate a possible foothold for a future run.

"I would always lean towards strategic decision-making on the part of politicians, so I would say it's strategic looking forward," Herrera said. "Now, that doesn't mean it wasn't sincere."

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