Jake Rush is running for U.S. Congress. He’s a lawyer. And, sometimes, when he’s not working, he’s also Lord Staas van der Winst.
The candidate up against incumbent Gainesville Tea Party Congressman Ted Yoho has drawn criticism in the past week after the SaintPetersblog published a post calling out Rush for taking part in supernatural role-playing games. Since then, the story has been picked up by national publications like Vanity Fair and Gawker.
The blog cited message board posts made by Chazz Darling, supposedly one of Rush’s online personas, that insinuated sexually assaulting another character.
Rush is open about his involvement in acting and role-playing. In the Gainesville chapter of fantasy-themed gaming and acting community The Camarilla, he portrays the character listed as Lord Staas van der Winst on the group’s Wikipedia page.
But his campaign says some critics are rushing to inaccurate conclusions about the implications of his hobbies.
Alex Patton, a campaign spokesman, said the blog spun Rush’s involvement in gaming and acting as “Satan worship.”
Patton said Rush’s hobby was mischaracterized by his opposition as a “political hack job.” But, he said, “you kind of expect these things when you’re campaigning.”
The Alligator could not reach Yoho for comment.
In a statement, Rush said that as a Christian, he was “deeply offended that the opposing campaign and their supporters would take a gaming and theatre hobby and mischaracterize it.” He also indirectly addressed allegations about the posts.
“The very definition of acting is expressing ideas and thoughts that are not your own,” he said.
But some Gainesville community members seemed unfazed and even positive about Rush’s hobbies.
Harry Beck, a 21-year-old UF anthropology junior who is the secretary for the campus tabletop gaming club Delta Nu Delta, said Rush would likely “get a lot of respect from the nerd community.”
“I think it makes him a lot more human,” Beck said.
He noted gaming and role-playing are simply hobbies that shouldn’t be considered odd in context.
“Everyone has something that they take part in to blow off steam,” he said. “Some people go out to nightclubs. Some people go hunting. Other people play games with friends, and some people LARP.”
Journalism junior Lawrence Chan, the 21-year-old main organizer for SwampCon, an anime, gaming and sci-fi gathering at UF, said rumors about Rush’s private hobbies shouldn’t impact his campaign.
Rush and Yoho will face off in the Aug. 26 Republican primary. The general election for the District 3 congressional seat will be Nov. 4.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 4/2/2014 under the headline "Yoho challenger Rush called out for LARPing"]
Congressional candidate Jake Rush and his wife, Anne, pose in live action role-playing outfits.