Until late April, I was a fulltime investigative journalist based in Arizona with more than 26 years of reporting and writing on political corruption, corporate scams and general skullduggery that this beautiful state breeds as copiously as thorns on a cholla cactus.
Arizona is ground zero for brazen corruption, and over the past quarter century I've been at the center of some of the biggest storms. In 1989, I broke the Keating Five Scandal that nearly ended John McCain's Senate career after he and four other senators were grilled for months before the Senate Ethics Committee.
In the 1990s, I uncovered the financial corruption of former Arizona Governor Fife Symington that led to his indictment, resignation and conviction in 1997. And in the early 2000s, I exposed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's persistent abuse of power that has now led to a federal grand jury investigation of his office.
I've always considered myself a representative of the people and I think my journalism reflects this. I love journalism and it's been a rewarding career.
But I've embarked on a new path of public service. I'm now a determined candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.
In the midst of a beautiful and mild Sonoran spring, McCain made a stunning statement when he declared he never considered himself to be a maverick. McCain's calculated and desperate gambit to appease Arizona's rabid Right, a move that Jon Stewart aptly described as "shorting his soul," convinced me it was time to challenge McCain in his own arena: politics.
My next thought was that Arizona's Democrats must have somebody with firepower who could burst through this window of opportunity, someone who could keep McCain from dancing back to the middle after he dispatches Tea Party idol and Jack Abramoff buddy J.D. Hayworth in the Republican primary.
And what if Hayworth wins the Aug. 24 primary?
The Democrats would be in an ideal position to pull an historic upset, especially after Republican leaders enraged Arizona's Hispanic population with its race-baiting, anti-immigrant bill SB1070 that has disgraced the Grand Canyon State and prompted a surge in voter registration among Latino citizens.
Either way, I figured Arizona's Democrats surely were prepared to put up a fight.
Other than the then-vice-mayor of Tucson, a 32-year-old professional student (five degrees!) who had managed a family ice staking rink and was flush with a nice stash of cash from the family's agribusiness and fertilizer empire (the top Dems call this a "self-funding" candidate), there was no formidable candidate who could beat either Republican on the horizon.
McCain's cynical machinations and the lack of a substantial Democrat to challenge him merged with my lifelong dedication to public service as an investigative journalist. I decided it was time to make a run for the U.S. Senate.
Why would an investigative journalist who made a decent living uncovering one scandal after another decide to enter the seamy world of politics?
The answer is simple: I'm fed up with money-driven politics that brought us to the brink of financial collapse, left the Gulf of Mexico drenched in oil, has given us wars without end, and a 19th Century fossil-fuel-based economy that could reduce America to a second-rate power in our lifetimes.
I relish the opportunity to hire a staff of investigative reporters who will scour every corner of our labyrinthine government and provide the fodder for nonstop oversight hearings on a wide range of subjects -- Wall Street and Big Oil to start -- to be held before disaster strikes again.
In less than a month, with the help of friends old and new from across the state, we collected 12,500 signatures, built a website (www.johndougherty2010.com) and secured a place on the Aug. 24 ballot. This is a true grassroots campaign that seeks first and foremost to break the corrosive influence of special interest money financing elections.
Two other candidates have also joined the race and we now have a four-way primary with early voting beginning July 29. Notably, the leading candidate who has previously held elective office is ducking my request to hold a series of debates.
Perhaps he is taken aback by my website's motto: "Electing Arizona's top investigative journalist is Washington's worst nightmare."