Slade Gorton looks at an old photo in his office and smiles.

“That would be 1989, almost 30 years ago,” said the former senator from Washington state as he pointed at the picture of the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which he and John McCain were both members. “I think we were awfully young then.”

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He paused to reflect Friday, amid news McCain has ended treatment for brain cancer. “John McCain is the truest great hero I’ve ever been closely associated with in my life.”

Gorton says McCain was one of the first Republicans to campaign on his behalf in Washington state and backed him during his campaign for President in 2008.

McCain could be frustrating for other ]Republicans because he was a "maverick," said former state Attorney General Rob McKenna, who led the state campaign for McCain 2008 bid.

“He ran an honorable campaign in 2008, and he would have made a fine president,” McKenna said, adding, “they say the true test of political courage - is not opposing the other side - it's opposing someone on your side on principled grounds and he was willing to do that.”

McKenna, a Republican, noted how McCain has always risen above a certain type of discourse.

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“Senator McCain believes there is such as thing as truth, and objective facts and analysis,” he said. “He never said the truth isn’t the truth.”

Gorton and McKenna said they’re saddened by the recent developments, but still smile at the legacy McCain has left.

“He was his own person, he made up his own mind,” Gorton said. “Interest groups had no effect on him whatsoever. He was just John McCain, dammit.”