Truth told, we have spent an hour or two over the years with our longtime colleague John Dougherty at Casey Moore's Oyster House, the venerable neighborhood joint on South Ash in Tempe.
Did it again last night (Wednesday).
The beer was cold as always, and the food delicious.
But this was different -- at least a little.
This was a campaign rally, a celebration, the beginning of something.
Dougherty was on hand with a small entourage of family, friends, and political supporters to announce that he just had filed 12,275 signatures with the Arizona Secretary of State.
That's more than double the number needed to qualify him for the Democratic primary in the race for U.S. Senate.
The 11th-hour candidate (he jumped into the race less than a month ago) needed 5,124 signatures to get on the ballot.
For sure, Dougherty faces an uphill struggle even to win the Democratic primary, to be held August 24.
Frontrunner Rodney Glassman, a 32-year-old Tucsonan who served as a City Councilman for a term before resigning to run for U.S. Senate, has a substantial war chest, including $250,000 of his own money, to spend.
Dougherty has, well, something less than that amount.
But the dude never has shied from a challenge -- we know this personally.
It was an especially upbeat gathering at Casey's last night. Folks were thrilled that their guy --who earned his stripes as a journalist by going after politicos, not becoming one himself --managed to collect the necessary signatures to move to the next step.
As most Arizonans know, the winner on the Democratic side faces the Herculean task of beating longtime incumbent Senator John McCain or McCain's opponent in the Republican primary, talk-show blatherer J.D. Hayworth (a former U.S. Representative himself).
Dougherty took dead-aim at McCain in his improvised remarks at the bar, not even invoking Hayworth's name.
He said McCain has learned nothing in the two decades that have passed since Dougherty himself broke the monster story of the Keating Five, a quintet of senators (that included McCain) whose dicey financial relationships with the powerful Phoenix businessman whose savings-and-loan bank later collapsed at a cost to taxpayers of $3 billion.
"John McCain was is, and always will be, a tool," Dougherty said,
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SHOW ME HOW
We are rooting for the white-haired 54-year-old married father of two to win the Democratic primary, and not just because he's such a mensch.
We hunger to watch McCain try to squirm his way out of debating a verbally able onetime investigative reporter who spent endless hours over the years trying to expose his senatorial misdeeds.
May never happen (either a Dougherty win or a Dougherty-McCain debate).
But with Dougherty's name almost certainly to be on the ballot in August (short of a successful challenge by another candidate as to the legitimacy of those signatures), we can hope.