Jake Rush is a former sheriff’s deputy and an attorney running in the primary against first-term Florida GOP Rep. Ted Yoho. He describes himself as a conservative “sharp-shooter.”
But in his spare time, Rush also dresses up in costumes and participates in supernatural live-action role-playing games featuring vampires, werewolves, and gothic elements.
Rush’s hobby, first reported by local politics blog St. Peters Blog, is raising eyebrows since he announced his campaign last month. Yoho said Wednesday that the reports of his opponent's behavior are "disturbing."
But the candidate insists it is as innocent as acting in a play or playing a video game.
"My client is a nerd and he plays games. So what? Frankly, Congress needs a little bit more intelligence,” a campaign spokesman told FoxNews.com.
For the unfamiliar, live-action role-playing, or LARPing, are games where participants dress up like and act as their characters. There are dozens of LARPing societies in the U.S. with unique universes the characters adhere to.
Rush belongs to one called the Mind’s Eye Society, a nationwide organization that hosts games and raises money for charity in the process. The scenarios acted out by the Mind’s Eye Society involve vampires and other supernatural beings.
One of the alter egos Rush uses is “Chazz Darling,” a member of the “Kindred of Gainesville,” whose various scenarios and mythology are detailed on a public Wiki page. The page credits the character to “J. Rush,” but Rush spokesman Alex Patton said multiple people have access to the character and the accounts associated with it, including Rush’s wife.
St. Peters Blog reported a disturbing element of the "Chazz Darling" character is a message posted on a Yahoo board discussing topics such as “snorting lines” and implying the rape of “maidens.” The message has since been deleted, but the Gainesville Sun reported Tuesday the account associated with it corresponds with the email address email@example.com.
There are also a number of photos uploaded by “J. Rush” on the Wiki, including ones featuring “angel blood” and “book burning.” Another one features a “succubus,” which according to mythology is a demon that assumes female form and has sex with men in their sleep. A few of the photos feature Rush in gothic-style costume. Patton said he could not confirm which photos Rush himself posted.
Rush said Wednesday, though, he had nothing to do with the Yahoo group comments. His campaign said another gamer had emailed them to take credit for the comments in the Yahoo group, and apologized that they were erroneously attributed to Rush. A copy of the email claiming responsibility for the comments was viewed by FoxNews.com.
“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," Rush said in a statement.
Patton slammed critical media reports suggesting that Rush’s unorthodox hobby is somehow indicative of his character in real life, noting Rush has passed numerous background checks to become both an attorney and a sheriff’s officer. He noted Rush also plays Madden, but he “certainly doesn’t think he is Brett Favre.”
Rush has also received support from numerous people on his Facebook page, with several self-professed “LARPers” defending the hobby and praising him for not being ashamed.
The Rush campaign blamed the Yoho campaign for attacking his hobby instead of addressing real issues, which a spokesman called typical of the congressman's "buffoonery."
A spokeswoman for the Yoho campaign told FoxNews.com the campaign had nothing to do with Rush's hobby being disclosed in the media. Yoho said in a statement Wednesday he found the coverage an "unfortunate distraction" and the reports of Rush's alleged online activity troublesome.
"As a husband and father of two daughters and a son, what I've read is extremely disturbing and does not reflect my values or the values of the 3rd Congressional District," Yoho said.