Sen. John McCain, Arizona's 'maverick,' dies at 81

The longtime Arizona senator and presidential candidate was battling brain cancer

Arizona senator and two-time presidential hopeful John McCain died Saturday at 81, according to reports

During his 36-year career in Arizona politics, McCain served two terms in the House of Representatives and then six terms as a senator. As a young man he served as a United States Navy aviator in Vietnam, where he was famously shot down and kept as a prisoner of war for several years. 

McCain was battling an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma, for which he stopped seeking treatment on Friday. The diagnosis was announced in July 2017. 

See more: John McCain ends brain cancer treatment effective Friday

The senator played a key role in Arizona and national politics for the last several decades. His career spanned two failed presidential bids and an appointment as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a lofty position in which he advocated for military spending and foreign policy hawkishness. 

While he came to prominence as a Ronald Reagan-style Republican, McCain has often bucked the party line, earning him a reputation as a "maverick." He's often criticized the Donald Trump White House in public statements and remained active in politics even as he battled cancer, including a dramatic moment when he voted down a Republican push to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

A statement from McCain's office said the veteran senator passed away this afternoon surrounded by family in his Arizona home. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who will likely be tasked with naming the late senior senator's successor, ordered flags to be lowered in McCain's honor. 

"Like so many of us, (McCain) was not born here, but his spirit, service and fierce independence shaped the state with which he became synonymous," Ducey said in a prepared statement from his office. 

Statements and notes of condolence have poured in from politicians and cultural leaders nationwide. 

"For the countless lives he impacted through his leadership, courage and compassion, we are grateful," said ASU President Michael Crow, who met McCain while working at Columbia University. "And while today our community grieves the loss of a friend and colleague, Sen. McCain’s legacy will continue to inspire the work done at his namesake, the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU, and continue to provide insights to scholars and citizens alike through his archives."

The McCain Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based international affairs think tank operated in collaboration with the University. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Sen. John McCain ran for president twice but was only nominated once.


Reach the reporter at isaac.windes@asu.edu or follow @isaacdwindes on Twitter.

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