Meet Jake Rush.
He's running against Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, a first-term tea party conservative, in the upcoming 3rd District Republican primary. He's a former sheriff's deputy and a current attorney, and often talks about how he is a conservative "straight shooter." However, he also enjoys supernatural live action role-playing (LARP) games. (Who doesn't?)
He is a member of the Mind’s Eye Society and played a leadership role in the "Covenant of the Poisoned Absinthe" based in Gainesville, Fla. The blog that originally revealed Rush's LARPer background described the Mind's Eye Society as "a nationwide community of gothic-punk role-players who come together to take on personas of vampires and other supernatural beings (known as Kindred), dealing with night-to-night struggles 'against their own bestial natures, hunters, and each other.'" These events can involve dressing up in werewolf and vampire costumes.
Business Insider contacted Rush's father, who said that reporters ought to focus on the issues and added that his son's opponents are likely to leap to Rush's other hobbies soon."My joke is, I've been Jake's father his entire life, and so I certainly can tell you everything about him," he told Business Insider. "The kid grew up in the country on a farm doing all types of fun things. Jeez, one of the other things that he knows how to do really well is throw knives, so I'm sure there's something sinister in that." (Nothing involving Steven Seagal is sinister. NOTHING!)
For his part, Rush told the Gainesville Sun that he hasn't had time for LARP in the past four months and summed up his interest by saying: "It's all improv." (He's always been a bit of a theater buff.) After at least 10 blog posts had already been written, he responded with a press release:
All my life, I’ve been blessed with a vivid imagination from playing George Washington in elementary school to dressing up as a super hero last Halloween for trick or treaters. Any cursory review of the Internet will show that I have played heroes and villains.... I have never hid nor shied away from disclosing my hobby activities. When I was hired at the Sheriff’s office, I fully disclosed my gaming and theatre background on the application, and these hobbies posed absolutely no problem or raised any flags. In fact, when applying for undercover work, these hobbies were considered an advantage, so much so my shift lieutenant nicknamed me ‘Shakespeare.'
This photo was included.
Saint Peters Blog, which is run by political consultant Peter Schorsch, published more photos of Rush in LARP mode. Here's a quick list:
Images that remained under the attorney’s name range between the utterly childish and truly unsettling — especially for someone wanting to be a serious “law and order” GOP congressional candidate who leans to the right of the Tea Party.
For example, images not erased — unlike one deleted photo uploaded in 2009 titled “Put on my Rape Face” — illustrate a disturbing spectrum, ranging from the silly and mild to unsettling portrayals of bizarre, ritualistic scenes of the occult, book burnings — even a succubus.
Among the photos still available on the wiki are of Rush:
- Burning books
- Aiming shotguns at dogs
- Dressed as a vampire
- Dressed as a demon
- Satanic symbolism
- Being chained and gagged
- Bloody angel wings
Note: For the uninitiated, a succubus is a female demon who appears in dreams, usually in human form, to seduce men through sexual activity.
The wiki mentioned above has now been shut down. Saint Peters Blog also attributed some graphic conversations on a LARP listserv to Rush, and he responded to those accusations with another press release Wednesday, saying:
It is with certainty that I did not make the salacious remarks attributed to me in yesterday's news cycle. As I have said, I have played heroes and villains and in the spirit of gaming I have said things that when taken out of context would be considered embarrassing; however, I did not make the comments attributed to me by an anonymous email that was then cut and pasted by blogs.
Another LARPer, Lee Snyder, e-mailed the Rush campaign and said he had made the comments while gaming as one of Rush's preferred characters. (Truth = stranger than fiction.) Rush's campaign manager, Remzey Samarrai, also had a response, using his complete befuddlement about his boss's hobby to try to turn the discussion back to politics.
"I don’t understand gaming, I don’t get it," he said in the statement, "but I do know that these so-called scandals are drummed up by opponents in trouble to turn attention from their misdeeds, moral lapses, and political problems. And the question is not ‘Does Jake game, but is Yoho a conservative?’"
Good luck with that. There's a long history of fascination with politicians and video games. It usually hasn't hurt candidates, but Rush's case does seem to take things to a new level.
- In 2012, Colleen Lachowicz ran for a seat in the Maine state Senate. In her free time, she played World of Warcraft. The Maine Republican Party built an entire Web site devoted to chronicling this (sample blog posts include screenshots of her posting things online like, "So I'm a level 68 orc rogue girl. That means I stab things...a lot... Who would have thought that a peace-lovin', social worker and democrat would enjoy that?!"). She ended up winning anyway.
- In 2009, the AP took a picture of two Connecticut state legislators playing computer solitaire. One of them, Jack Hennessy, released a long statement apologizing. "It was certainly bad judgment for me to play a computer game even for just a few minutes during the final House session on the budget. I am embarrassed, and I apologize to each and every person in the North End and to people across the state. My actions were inexcusable."
- In a district county supervisor race in Arizona in 2008, a 56-year-old candidate released a flier that revealed his 24-year-old opponent had told his college newspaper at Arizona State, "I am addicted to Halo and play almost every night." The flier also mentioned that the Halo addict still lived at his parents' house.
- A senior adviser of David Cameron revealed that the British prime minister spends “a crazy, scary amount of time playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad.” The U.K. culture minister thinks he should be able to have a gaming room in his office.
- City councilors in Rome were given laptops so they could play games during boring meetings in 2010.
- Colorado Rep. Jared Polis has said he is a gamer in several media appearances. In a Reddit AMA, he was asked, "Do many other people on Capitol Hill play video games? I'm trying to picture two rather dour representatives on the floor of the house talking very seriously about Skyrim." Polis responded, "I don't know! I'll ask some of them."
- California Rep. Darrell Issa tried out a dancing game at SXSW this year.