BY CHRISTINE BEDELL, Californian staff writer
cbedell@bakersfield.com | Monday, Jan 25 2010 07:20 PM

Last Updated Monday, Jan 25 2010 07:20 PM

State Sen. Roy Ashburn, after virtually an entire adulthood in government and politics, said Monday he’s bowing out of public life — at least for now.

Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, told The Californian he’s dropping his bid for the state Board of Equalization and will not run for Democrat Jim Costa’s congressional seat. He’d been thinking about the latter but not made any firm decisions.

“I think people are looking for new faces and new people,” Ashburn said. “I think that was one of the messages I took out of the vote in Massachusetts.”

He was referring to Republican Scott Brown’s win last week of the Senate seat opened by the death of Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., last year. Analysts have in part attributed that win to voter disenfranchisement with establishment politicians.

Ashburn said he doesn’t know what he will do after he’s termed out of office at the end of this year but that “I’m sure I’ll find ways to keep busy.” Asked if he’s ruling out any future run for public office, he said: “it’s never smart to say never.”

“(For now) I’m very committed to being the very best representative in the Senate I can this year,” Ashburn said.

The news shocked Vic Pollard, The Californian’s former Sacramento bureau chief, because just last week Ashburn told him all systems were go on a House bid.

“He said he was in the congressional race to stay and he expected to win it,” Pollard said.

Ashburn must have received some bad news, Pollard said.

“They usually switch course like that when they learn something that tells them there’s no point in going on,” he said of politicians who drop out of races. “It’s often a poll.”

Bakersfield Republican consultant Tracy Leach said grassroots Republicans in the 20th Congressional District are “overwhelmingly” supporting Hanford farmer Andy Vidak for the Republican nomination.

“I have spoken to many of them regarding who they are backing and that’s the name I consistently hear,” Leach said.

Ashburn said he made his decision not to run for Congress after consulting with friends and family. He said his big legislative priorities right now involve efforts to help people purchase homes and obtain related jobs.

Ashburn wants to fix a loophole in the law he championed last year giving home buyers a $10,000 tax credit. Some problematic language in the legislation has made about $30 million of the $100 million dedicated to the program unusable, he said.

And he plans to carry legislation Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about in his State of the State address to spend another $200 million on homebuyer tax credits. The credits not only help people buy homes, Ashburn said, but create jobs for people who would build those homes.

“On many levels this is a great program,” he said.

It’s been decades since Ashburn, 55, has been out of government. He was a Kern County supervisor from 1984 to 1996, a state assemblyman from 1997 to 2002 and has been a senator since 2003. Before that he worked for former Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, and former Kern County Supervisor LeRoy Jackson.

Prior to all of that he owned Roy Ashburn Signs.

Local GOP consultant Stan Harper was disappointed to hear Ashburn won’t run for Congress.

“He’s been a good public servant,” Harper said. “He would have given Costa a formidable challenge.”

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