Image disconnect: Conservative Congressional candidate caught with bizarre double life that involves LARP, vampires and some really weird pictures

Jake Rush is a 35 year old attorney who is running for Congress in Florida’s 3rd Congressional district.  He is a Republican who is seeking to replace Congressman Ted Yoho (R).  As one would expect in a primary contest such as this, Rush’s biography emphasizes his conservative and Christian roots, emphasizing his career in law enforcement and practice as a constitutional lawyer.  He attacks the government, saying, “People see a river of pollution flowing from Washington DC, and this pollution erodes our Constitutional Rights, floods us with government against our will, and gives life to Obamacare.  From this river flows unending spending, increased national debt, job layoffs, and disappointing economic news.”

All of this is pretty standard stuff.  However, Rush’s image took a bizarre turn yesterday.  The SaintPetersBlog broke this strange story: Rush is into vampire/goth role playing.  Among the items noted:

  • Rush is a member of the Mind’s Eye Society (MES), which is a “nationwide community of gothic-punk role-players who come together to take personas of vampires and other supernatural beings…dealing with night-to-night struggles ‘against their own bestial natures, hunters, and each other.”
  • Within MES, Rush has participated in table games and live action role playing (LARP), taking on the role of dozens of characters.
  • In a user-maintained wiki, Rush has an official bio that describes him as a “sworn officer … fo’ real,” thus connecting his role-playing character and real world persona.
  • He began deleting images from his Wiki but many photos remained, including ones of Rush burning books, dressed as a vampire and being bound and chained.
  • In a 2010 post to a Yahoo! message board under a nickname “Chazz Darling,” Rush posted that he “wanted to stick my dick in your mouth to shut you up while I snorted a line off my new machete that was blessed by Rui (sic) but then I remembered that you were typing so my dick would really have to be in your hands to keep you from typing….”

The story has since made the national news.

Rush responded by accusing the Yoho campaign of distracting voters while emphasizing his religious roots.

As a practicing Christian, I am deeply offended that the opposing campaign and their supporters would take a gaming and theatre hobby and mischaracterize it. Bottom line— there is nothing wrong with being a gamer. It’s kinda nerdy, but North Central Florida deserves a legitimate debate on the issues instead of Ted Yoho’s usual sideshow distractions.”

There’s an important point to make here, and it shouldn’t be lost in this story:  Rush has not been accused of doing anything illegal.  Zero.  All that has been said is that he has engaged in habits that are out of the mainstream and would offend some.  Is that a disqualifier for a Congressional career?  I hope not.  But, these days, the painful truth is that facts don’t matter in politics as much as innuendo.  It’s something I have seen in my time in elected office and it is a shame.  But it is political reality, and as elected officials, we have to do what we can to mitigate circumstances like these.

This is a social media related story because of the Yahoo! posts and Wiki updates.  The lesson?  I don’t know…don’t live?  This story bothers me.  Rush is entitled to have a private life and if it’s not hurting anyone, I don’t know what the problem is.  That being said, Rush should have known better.  If you plan on running for office, you are held to a higher, and frequently unobtainable, standard.  Putting compromising pictures online was not a good idea.  Neither were some of the posts that Rush made.  They probably weren’t anything other than a fantasy, but for a prominent attorney (and future politico), this was silly.  It’s not as if the posts were made when Rush was in college…he made them only a few years ago, and that is really the lesson: use better judgement.

There is, however, a second issue, and that’s the disconnect.  Rush calls himself a traditional attorney, traditional values, practicing Christian, etc.  All of these descriptions do not resonate with someone who LARPs.  That, really, is the problem here, and that’s the lesson: don’t paint yourself into an image that you cannot maintain.

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