BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Roy Ashburn, running for the non-partisan 1st District Kern County Board of Supervisors seat, is challenging opponent Mick Gleason's voting record, political party loyalty and integrity as the campaign pushes into its final days.
Gleason called the attacks "toothless."
Ashburn, a Republican, said Friday that Gleason has failed to vote in critical elections and switched his party registration to mislead voters and grab support from the Kern County Republican "machine."
"He came to Kern County in 2004 and he did not register to vote," Ashburn said.
Kern County Elections Division records confirm Gleason did not register to vote here in 2004, despite the fact his wife did. But Gleason said he did vote in 2004.
"I've always voted in the state of Florida," Gleason said.
Gleason, a naval aviator, always maintained his status at his military posts as a "military non-resident," he said Friday evening. He said he set his residence in Pensacola, Fla., where he attended basic training, while he was posted around the nation and globe, including in Kern County, flying combat jets.
It was too late in the day for The Californian to confirm the Florida voting records.
Gleason first registered to vote in Kern County as an American Independent Party member in 2008.
Ashburn also criticized Gleason for his party registration.
"When he did decide to register to vote, the party he chose was the American Independent Party," Ashburn said. He stayed an American Independent "until he decided to run for county supervisor. Only then did he decide to register as a Republican."
Ashburn said Gleason re-registered as a Republican only to secure the help of GOP consultant Mark Abernathy.
According to county elections division records, Gleason changed his registration from American Independent to Republican on Oct. 24, 2011. He launched his campaign just one month later.
Gleason said he re-registered as a Republican last year for purely practical reasons. He wanted, he said, to be able to vote in the June GOP presidential primary.
Gleason said he chose the Republican Party because "my values are more in line with the Republican Party than the Democratic Party."
Ashburn said Gleason's real purpose was to mislead the voters "because he teamed with the Abernathy political machine and the Abernathy political machine props up his Republican credentials."
The move, Ashburn said, automatically earned Gleason the endorsement of the region's top Republicans -- Abernathy clients Congressman Kevin McCarthy, state Sen. Jean Fuller and Assemblywoman Shannon Grove -- at an October press conference.
"He has opted to deceive the voters, portraying himself as a Republican and having accomplices -- the three leading local Republicans -- standing at a press conference proclaiming him as the better Republican," Ashburn said.
Gleason rejected the attack, saying his supporters knew his party registration history and that he'd recently joined the Republican Party.
He said he has changed his party registration multiple times as he has become disenchanted by the people leading the party he was in.
Born to a Catholic family on the East Coast, Gleason started out as a Democrat.
"I was a Democrat until someone wagged his boney finger at me (and said), 'I did not have sex with that woman,'" Gleason said. "I knew it was a bald-faced lie."
So he bailed from the Democratic Party.
"Then I was a Republican," Gleason said.
But during the President George W. Bush era, he became disillusioned with the Republicans as well.
"I appreciated George Bush's military efforts," Gleason said. But he said he looked at where the economy was going and saw that "we're going into debt like never before."
So he became an American Independent.
Ashburn said that even after Gleason re-registered as a Republican last year, he tried to fool the district's Democratic voters during the primary.
"He was a Republican at the time that his campaign paid for a piece of mail to portray himself, with Barack Obama, as the team for Democratic voters," Ashburn said.
"His two themes have been leadership and trust. "There goes the leadership. There goes the trust."
Gleason called Ashburn's charges a baseless attack.
"If he had something better, he'd use it," Gleason said. "If this is all he's got, it's pretty weak."