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Sen. Jon Kyl retirement sets off two races: one in Arizona, another in D.C.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona announces his retirement, opening the door to candidates for his Senate seat as well as his position as the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.

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Republican Whip Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, talks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 19, 2010. Kyl announced that he would retire at the end of his term in 2012.

Alex Brandon/AP/File

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Three-term Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona has announced he will not run for reelection in 2012, setting off two races: one to fill his seat in the Senate and another to fill his spot in the Republican leadership.

A day after the Republicans gained hope for a Senate pickup in Virginia with the announcement that Sen. Jim Webb (D) of Virginia will not run for reelection, Senator Kyl’s retirement notice Thursday gave the Democrats their own little glimmer of optimism. Kyl was a lock for reelection had he decided to run. An open-seat race loosens the calculation a bit.

“While Kyl's retirement doesn't put the seat in immediate jeopardy, it creates a small opening for Democrats, and potentially a bigger one if they can recruit the right candidate,” the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said on its website. “Thus, the race moves to Likely Republican until and if Democrats recruit a first-tier challenger.”

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