The race for Kern County's 1st District Supervisor's seat features a political outsider and a man who barely needs an introduction.
Ever since he was eight years old and shook the hand of then-Governor Ronald Reagan, Bakersfield's Roy Ashburn says he's been drawn to politics and public service.
Now, two years after his controversial exit from politics, Ashburn is back, walking precincts, and talking to voters.
He's been around this block a time or two. He was, after all, 1st District Supervisor for 12 years.
Politics permeates the fabric of Roy Ashburn's life. A degree in public administration from CSUB, field rep for Supervisor Leroy Jackson in the mid 70's, four years as an assistant to Congressman Bill Thomas, then 12 years as a Supervisor and 14 years in the legislature as Assemblyman and Senator.
"You are the career politician," we pointed out to him. Ashburn responded: "All these positions are positions the public has supported me in. If someone wants to put labels on it, that's their right. I have the experience and passion to be of service to these people."
Ashburn's fall from grace in Sacramento was three-fold. His DUI arrest after leaving a gay bar in his state-leased car in 2010, his revelation that he's homosexual outraged gay rights groups who highlighted his anti-gay voting record, and his vote to increase taxes in 2009 made Ashburn a pariah in his own party, with Republicans blasting Ashburn for breaking his promise not to raise taxes.
"When you're out knocking on doors, what kind of feedback do you get?," we asked him.
"Mostly people are glad to see me. Usually greet me with a smile or a "Roy" or a "Mr. Ashburn."
"But, what about the tax vote?," we asked. "When they do, I tell them directly, California was at a crisis point. It wasn't a vote I wanted to cast, but had to cast for the people of the state of California," said Ashburn.
As for priorities, here are Ashburn's: economic growth and making Kern job-friendly.
"I will lead a total review of every county ordinance and regulation, every fee, tax and assessment, as it affects the businesses and jobs in Kern County."
He's deeply concerned about the Lake Isabella Dam project, that construction could disrupt the Kern River Valley's economy. "We may well shut off Kern County's recreation and tourism for a project I am very skeptical about," he said.
Especially the Army Corps of Engineers' intention to build a spillway that can handle what the Corps calls a "maximum probability storm".
"A 10,000 year flood. I don't know what that looks like, but I suspect that a new spillway in a dam isn't going to answer the problems that we're going to have in the event of a catastrophic 10,000 year event," said Ashburn.
Unlike his opponent, Mick Gleason who has faith in the Army Corp of Engineers to get the dam project right, Ashburn says he is distrustful of the Corps, based on past experience.
"We saw what happened in New Orleans," he said. "The Corps was once in charge of recreation at Lake Isabella and they were so inhospitable to visitors that I invited them to leave, and Congressman Thomas and I were successful in kicking them out."
Ashburn's third top priority is being prepared for the possibility of another round of military base closures, with an eye on protecting the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in Ridgecrest.
"In the senate I chaired the Senate Select Committee on military installations. I know how to organize the community, how to approach the BRAC Commission and how to represent our military installations," said Ashburn.
The race for Kern's 1st District Supervisor's seat is a classic matchup of military veteran Mick Gleason, the outsider, and lifelong politician Roy Ashburn, the insider.
Ashburn says his experience in public office makes him the best candidate. "Having served the district for a period of time that I have, I know the district, the people, the issues. And, then I have value added as a State Assemblyman and Senator that, I think, makes me the best qualified candidate for the job."
Ashburn also pledges to bring Kern County's pension system "into full health."
And, speaking of pensions, Ashburn says he has just one, from the 12 years he served as Kern County Supervisor from 1984 to 1996.