Jon Llewellyn Kyl, born April 25, 1942 is an American attorney and politician. From 1995 to 2013, he served with John McCain as a United States Senator from Arizona and as Senate Minority Whip, the second-highest position in the Republican Senate leadership. Before returning to the Senate in 2018, he worked at the law firm Covington & Burling’s lobbying group.
The son of U.S. Representative John Henry Kyl, he was born and raised in Nebraska and lived for some time in Iowa. He received his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Arizona. He worked in Phoenix, Arizona as a lawyer and lobbyist before winning election to the United States House of Representatives, where he served from 1987 to 1995. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994 and continued to be re-elected by comfortable margins until his January 2013 retirement.
In 2006, he was recognized by Time magazine as one of America’s Ten Best Senators. Kyl was ranked by National Journal in 2007 as the fourth-most conservative U.S. Senator. He has been a fixture of Republican policy leadership posts, chairing the Republican Policy Committee (2003–2007) and the Republican Conference (2007). In December 2007, he became Senate Minority Whip. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010 for his persuasive role in the Senate.
In February 2011, Kyl announced that he would not seek re-election to the Senate in 2012 and would retire at the end of his third term, which concluded on January 3, 2013. He expressly ruled out running for further office except, if offered, the Vice Presidency.
On September 4, 2018, it was announced that Kyl would be appointed by Governor Doug Ducey to serve in the Senate seat left vacant by the death of John McCain. At the time, Kyl had been working to shepherd the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. At a press conference accepting the appointment, he announced that he would serve at least until the end of the 115th United States Congress, and that he would not seek election in the 2020 special election.
Kyl was born in Oakland, Nebraska, the son of Arlene Pearl (née Griffith) and John Henry Kyl, a teacher at Nebraska State Teachers College. His father served as a Congressman from Iowa after moving his family to Bloomfield, Iowa. After graduating from high school in 1960, Kyl attended the University of Arizona where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964, graduating with honors. Kyl is a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, as is Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona. He then earned a law degree in 1966 at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, and served as editor-in-chief of the Arizona Law Review. Before entering politics, he was a lawyer and lobbyist with Jennings, Strouss & Salmon in Phoenix, Arizona. He also worked as an attorney at Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver, Colorado, prior to running for office. Kyl is married to Caryll Collins, with whom he has had two children. They also have four grandchildren.
Kyl served in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 1995. He was first elected in 1986 against Democrat Philip R. Davis, 65% to 35%. He was reelected in 1988 against Gary Sprunk of the Libertarian party, 87% to 13%; in 1990 against Democrat Mark Ivey, Jr., 61% to 39%; and in 1992 against Democrat Walter R. Mybeck, II, 59% to 27%.
Kyl was first elected to the Senate in 1994, defeating Samuel G. Coppersmith (D), then a member of the House of Representatives, 54% to 40%. Libertarian Party candidate Scott Grainger got 6% of the votes.
Kyl was reelected in 2000 without major-party opposition, with 79% of the vote. Independent William Toel got 8%; Green Party candidate Vance Hansen also got 8%; and Barry Hess of the Libertarian Party got 5%.
On November 7, 2006, Kyl defeated real estate developer and former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Jim Pederson to win his third term in the Senate. Kyl won with 53% of the vote; Pederson received 44%; and Libertarian Party candidate Richard Mack received 3%. The race was one of the most expensive in Arizona history, with Kyl raising more than $15 million and Pederson raising just shy of that amount.
A major issue in the campaign was illegal immigration. While in the Senate, Kyl cosponsored legislation that would give illegal immigrants up to five years to leave the country. Once there, they could apply for permanent residence or be guest workers. Since fellow Arizona Senator John McCain opposed this legislation, Pederson tried to use the issue as a way of allying with McCain and dividing the Republicans in Arizona. Controversy also arose when each candidate accused the other of supporting the amnesty provisions in a 1986 immigration bill, although both candidates deny ever supporting those provisions.