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Tuesday, Aug 27 2013 02:40 PM

'First Look': In candid interview, Ashburn speaks of coming out

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    By The Californian

    Former State Sen. Roy Ashburn talks with Californian President and CEO Richard Beene about his life on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

When Roy Ashburn came out of the closet in 2010, one of his biggest challenges was telling his mother.

Ashburn revealed publicly Tuesday that his brother also had been gay, and that 20 years earlier the brother had died of AIDS.

“I didn’t want her to feel that she had done something wrong, you know, having one son who was gay. But to have two was more than any parent should have to go through and so I wanted to spare her that,” Ashburn said.

“It was time for the truth.” 

Ashburn spoke candidly about key moments in his personal and professional life. He made the remarks on “First Look with Scott Cox,” simulcast on KERN Radio Newstalk 1180 and bakersfield.com.

The former Kern County supervisor and state senator was the guest of Californian President and CEO Richard Beene.

Describing his parents, he told Beene that “I had seen the pain, I had seen the struggle with understanding and acceptance.”

His mother, Ashburn said, took the news well. She told him she loved him and felt bad for all the things that had been happening to him. 

That included his March 2010 arrest in Sacramento while in office as a state senator on a driving under the influence charge.

He described it as a life-changing moment.

After seeing red flashing lights in his rear-view mirror, Ashburn recalled, he knew his life was never going to be the same. He said the fact nobody was hurt “was a gift from God.”

But it also struck him that he couldn’t go on like that.

“I said the truth about everything, that I was gay,” Ashburn said.

During a wide-ranging discussion on the simulcast with Beene and host Scott Cox, Ashburn said “truthfulness is very liberating.”

Two years after revealing he was gay, Ashburn decided to run again for a spot on the Kern County Board of Supervisors, in the 1st District. But this time, he said, he felt a disconnect with the people of Kern. He said he worked hard during that race, walking door to door, shaking hands and trying to make the connection that is vital in an election, but he couldn’t break through.

Despite decades of service in both Kern County and Sacramento, he lost the race to former U.S. Navy aviator Mick Gleason.

Ashburn says he was not successful because he was dishonest.

“I was someone other than I had portrayed,” Ashburn said.

Of his loss, Ashburn said a friend told him voters may have thought, “Maybe they’re just tired of you. Maybe you’ve just been around too long.”

Ashburn said this is Kern County, and he believes that saying he is gay “changed the community’s perception of me. It changed, it goes to the core of some fundamental values that are still very strong in Kern County.”

Yet he said he was “surprised by the results in total because I expected to win. I was in the race to win.”

Life after politics has not been too bad, Ashburn said. He said he has a job with the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and feels that he doesn’t have to be elected any more. He said everything that happened to him, happened for the right reason.

“I still care about the political world, the candidates, the issues and solutions,” he said. He wouldn’t rule out a run for elected office in the future.

Ashburn also talked about his political party. After identifying himself as a Republican for 59 years, and after doing a lot of soul-searching, he has now registered as “no party preference.”

Although he said he will always remain a Republican in his heart, Ashburn said the GOP’s stance has changed and he no longer feels connected to the party, including for its positions on immigration and gay rights. He said he is concerned when candidates say they believe in maximum individual liberty but then point a finger and say “except you” because of the way someone was born.


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