Ausbrooks is a winner, no matter how the votes go

Berry Craig
Berry Craig

Jimmy Ausbrooks vows he’s still practicing what Christ preached about loving thy neighbor.

Apparently the first openly gay man to run for Congress in a general election in Kentucky, he is the Democrat who wants to unseat First District U.S. Rep. James Comer, a Republican. Both spoke at the Fancy Farm picnic, where Kelley Paul, wife of Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, subbing for her absent husband, demagogued that “the Democrats went from promising a chicken in every pot to a drag queen in every school.”

Republican Herbert Hoover pledged “a chicken in every pot” when he ran for president in 1928 (and the Great Depression hit in 1929). No matter, Republicans in the crowd roared in approval at Paul’s trans slam. (Agriculture Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Ryan Quarles also hopped on the bigotry bandwagon, taking a gratuitous swipe at transgender student athletes.)

“I wanted to look Kelley Paul in the eye, but she left before I got to speak,” said Ausbrooks, a mental health counselor from Franklin who is on the Kentucky Counseling Association Board.

So he aimed his reply at the MAGA crowd: “When I go to D.C., I am going to represent each and every one of you. Even though you’re biased against me, I still believe in you. So you can sit here, and you can laugh at me, you can make jokes at me, I don't care. But I do care about your rights.”

Right on cue, the MAGA faithful booed and jeered him.

“I wasn't expecting the level of bile they put out,” Ausbrooks said. “It hurts me to think there may have been an LGBTIQA+ youth in the crowd who was made to feel less than because of what she said. The number one population for suicide is LGBTIQA+ youth.”

Nonetheless, Ausbrooks promises he’s sticking by his Fancy Farm promise: “I pledge to serve every person in the district, whether they’re a Republican, Democrat, independent, liberal, or conservative – or even if they’re biased against me because I'm gay.”

Ausbrooks, 51, brings that same message, no matter where he stumps the district, which sprawls 300 miles eastward from the Mississippi River all the way to Frankfort, the state capital, in central Kentucky.

Ausbrooks concedes that making it to Congress is a tall order. He’s short on cash and name recognition. He can’t afford to pay even one full-time aide. More than a few voters don’t even know he’s running.

Comer, from Tompkinsville, is the prohibitive favorite on Nov. 8. Like most of his constituents, Comer dotes on Donald Trump. Their hard-right politics is shared by most voters in the district, which is overwhelmingly white, Republican, rural, and Bible-Belt conservative.

Ausbrooks is a native of Simpson County, of which Franklin is the seat. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Western Kentucky University and tacked on an MA in education, with a counseling and human development emphasis, from Lindsey Wilson College.

“One of the biggest reasons I’m running is because I feel like I don’t have a voice in Washington, and I know I am not alone,” he said. “A lot of my family, friends, and neighbors say they’ve never seen Mr. Comer. I also figured that if nobody else was going to stand up, I had to stand up, and I am committed to giving the voiceless a voice.”

Ausbrooks, who was among 9 long-shot Democrats who lost to Amy McGrath in their party’s 2020 U.S. Senate primary, stands on a platform with planks calling for free and fully-funded public education from kindergarten through high school. He also supports abolishing tuition for in-state residents at public vocational schools, community colleges, and universities, and favors student loan debt forgiveness.

He is pro-choice and pro-women’s health.

He is “a proud gun owner and Second Amendment defender,” but wants “common sense gun laws” to stop violence in general, but particularly school shootings.

He's for “a universal healthcare system for all” because “healthcare is a human right and never a privilege.” In addition, Ausbrooks is committed to expanding mental health coverage and provider reimbursement.

He’s on board with “green/renewable energy,” because he “recognizes there is a global climate crisis.”

He backs legislation safeguarding LGBTQIA+ rights but “understands that diversity reaches far beyond sexual orientation and gender identity.” He “recognizes that individuals of color are discriminated against in higher numbers today than [they have been]... in his lifetime and perhaps his parents’ lifetimes. The continued white nationalist propaganda is fueling hate crimes and it continues to threaten lives.”

He favors immigration reform, but refuses to penalize the hardworking individuals and their families trying to make a better life for themselves. He welcomes Dreamers and will work diligently to grant to these men and women full citizenship, not just a pathway to citizenship.

He advocates a living wage and an increase in the minimum wage. (The Kentucky State AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed Ausbrooks.)

Meanwhile, Ausbrooks, a member of the Franklin Presbyterian Church, has a ready answer for people who condemn him for being gay: “Judge not lest you be judged.”

He explained, “I have a personal relationship with Christ [who, in the Bible, says nothing about homosexuality]. A lot of things people say about gays aren’t Christlike. But my church is welcoming and understanding and represents the true spirit of love thy neighbor.”

Win or lose, Ausbrooks says he’ll continue to fight for “justice and equality. I am a positive person and I believe change is coming. I’m not giving up, and I know if I can inspire just one person then I am a winner.”

Click here to donate to the Ausbrooks campaign.

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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