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Arizona residents line up to mourn Senator John McCain

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona residents lined up at the state capitol Wednesday to pay their respects to Senator John McCain, who endured 5-1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam before becoming one of the most powerful U.S. lawmakers and a two-time Republican presidential candidate.


The afternoon public viewing of his casket marked the start of five days of memorials in Phoenix and Washington for McCain, who died of brain cancer on Saturday at his ranch in Cornville, Arizona. He was 81.


?We are privileged as a state to have called him a fellow Arizonan,? Governor Doug Ducey said on Twitter early Wednesday.


McCain parlayed his status as a Vietnam War hero into a decades-long political career. Over the past two years he has stood out as a key rival and critic of U.S. President Donald Trump. The bad blood between the two persisted after McCain?s death, with his family asking Trump not to attend his funeral and the White House waffling on how to mourn a prominent fellow Republican.


?I want to pay my respects because he deserves it,? said Linda Gordon, 58, who was the first of about a dozen people who joined the line early Wednesday for the public viewing. ?He represents what our country should be.?


McCain was just the third person to lie in state in the Arizona statehouse rotunda over the past 40 years, organizers of the ceremony said. The others were state Senator Marilyn Jarrett in 2006 and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens of Tucson, in 1980.


Following a Thursday memorial, McCain?s body will be flown to the nation?s capital where he will lie in state on Friday at the U.S. Capitol before a Saturday funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.


On Sunday, McCain is to be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in a private ceremony.


Governor Ducey has said he will wait until after McCain?s burial to name a successor.


His pick will come from McCain?s party, leaving intact the Republicans? 51-49 Senate majority. Arizona Republicans on Tuesday picked a candidate to succeed retiring Senator Jeff Flake, another vocal Trump critic.


It was unclear whether any successor would be inclined or able to play the role of public foil to Trump that McCain did, notably in July 2017 when he cast the vote that blocked a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.


Their choice, U.S. Representative Martha McSally, is a staunch Trump supporter, as were her two rivals for the nomination. She will face Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in the Nov. 6 general election.


The Phoenix memorial follows a few days of confusion at the White House over whether American flags at U.S. government buildings would be flown at half-staff, in the traditional gesture for prominent political figures following their deaths.