Last December, as the Trump presidency chugged toward the close of its first year, a woman from western Ohio named Rachel Crooks appeared on CNN.
More than a year earlier, Crooks had been one of a handful of women to accuse then-candidate Donald Trump of unwanted sexual advances. Now, with Trump planted in the White House, Crooks was back in the public realm, pushing for a congressional investigation into the president’s behavior. The network’s Alisyn Camerota asked Crooks how she felt seeing the #MeToo movement flash across so many industries but miss the White House.
“I’m so thankful other women have the courage to come forward, but I do feel forgotten,” Crooks said. “You can’t help but wonder why people aren’t talking about Trump and the people that came forward for him and why he’s immune to this.”
Crooks, who first detailed her allegations against Trump to the New York Times in October 2016, has continued to vocally press her case against the president. And like an unprecedented number of women, she’s now channeling her personal reaction into the political realm. On Monday, Crooks announced she is running for a seat representing the 88th District in the Ohio House.
“I think my voice should have been heard then, and I’ll still fight for it to be heard now,” the candidate told Cosmopolitan. “Americans are really upset with politics as usual, and I want to be a voice for them.”
Trump has denied the claims made by Crooks and others. Last December, The Washington Post reported the White House had condemned the allegations “as a liberal political ploy.”
Crooks’s allegation dates from 2005 when she was a 22-year-old receptionist at Bayrock Group, a real estate development firm located in Trump Tower in Manhattan. One day, Crooks introduced herself to Trump.
“Mr. Trump repeatedly kissed my cheeks and ultimately my lips in an encounter that has since impacted my life well beyond the initial occurrence in the feelings of self-doubt and insignificance I had,” she said at a December 2017 news conference. “Unfortunately, given Mr. Trump’s notoriety and the fact that he was a partner of my employer, not to mention the owner of the building, I felt there was nothing I could do.”
Crooks, however, did immediately tell her sister and boyfriend, both of whom confirmed her account to the Times in October 2016.
Crooks grew up in the district, a rural part of western Ohio outside Toledo. According to her campaign release, her father was a mechanic, her mother a nurse. She lives in Tiffin and now works as the director of international student recruitment at Heidelberg University. Crooks told Cosmopolitan she was urged to run by members of Seneca County Rising, a liberal resistance group in the area.
“I didn’t necessarily see myself in this role,” she told the magazine. “But multiple people encouraged and said, ‘I think you would be great.’ Once you hear it a few times, you start to believe it a little bit, and fully consider it. Once I sat down and mulled it over, I felt like it really was a duty that I had, that I should take on this responsibility firsthand and try to make a difference for other people.”
Crooks’s campaign has the backing of the Ohio Democratic Party. The seat is now held by Republican Bill Reineke. The district voted for Trump in 2016, but went for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.
“My top priorities for Ohio include creating good-paying, family-sustaining jobs, ensuring access to affordable health care, making sure our kids have great schools no matter where they live and investing in higher education and career training to prepare Ohioans for those good jobs,” she said in a statement.
Crooks’s campaign fits into a larger wave of first-time female candidates running for office since Trump’s election.
As The Post reported last month the Center for American Women and Politics has said 390 women have filed or plan to file for U.S. House seats, with 49 women eyeing runs for the U.S. Senate, the largest pool of women candidates ever. Emily’s List, a fundraising operation that trains pro-choice Democratic women for campaigns, has said they’ve been contacted by more than 26,000 women about potential runs, Time reported.