When Carl DeMaio changes his mind, it usually happens quickly and dramatically.

He went from giving San Diego city finances an award to becoming their harshest critic. He went from being firmly in the corner of the Republican Party during his failed mayoral campaign to criticizing the party’s brand in the election’s aftermath. Enemies fast become friends. Friends soon become enemies.

DeMaio released an ad this week in his congressional race that cements a shift that played out far longer than the others, but one that’s no less dramatic and a lot more personal.

DeMaio looks straight into the camera for most of the ad, and leads off by referring to himself as, “a proud gay American.” Family photos from his troubled upbringing flicker across the screen.

It’s tough to overstate how big of departure this is for DeMaio. More than three years ago, DeMaio was tight-lipped about his personal life and upbringing, almost never showing any side of himself that wasn’t related to politics. When a television station asked to film the four major mayoral candidates’ hobbies, one chose working out, another walking her dog and the third playing the piano. DeMaio picked knocking on doors for his campaign. He even created a virtual reality version of himself to answer questions about his life in fall 2011. If you asked Virtual Carl if Real Carl was a private person, this was the answer:

“Yes, I’m intensely private. And that might come as a surprise to many people because I am a public, elected official. And I’m out in the public a lot. But there’s this test called the Myers-Briggs test and it shows that I’m an introvert, which pretty much means that at the end of a day, a long day I’m usually pretty exhausted and I just want to kind of be by myself and collect my thoughts. So I’m an intensely private person.”

The change to be more open was gradual. He began talking more about his family life toward the end of the mayoral campaign – DeMaio’s mother died when he was a teenager and his abusive father left the family. In this campaign, he’s embraced the attention that’s come with being one of the few gay Republican candidates for Congress. In a previous ad, he included a photo of himself holding hands with his partner at a Pride parade. But this new ad is the most direct and public he’s been about his personal life.

Here’s the ad:

YouTube video

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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