In the immediate wake of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood controversy, several women came forward with accounts of the then-Republican presidential nominee’s alleged sexual misconduct. One of Trump’s accusers was Rachel Crooks, who worked as a receptionist at Trump Tower in 2005. According to the account she gave to the New York Times, the Celebrity Apprentice star “kissed [her] directly on the mouth” after she introduced herself to him on an elevator. Since she first told her story just before the election, Crooks has spoken out against the president several times. Now she’s running for office in Ohio.
According to Cosmopolitan, Crooks was inspired to run largely because — despite the necessary upheavals enacted by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements — Trump has remained largely unaffected by the accusations against him. “I think my voice should have been heard then,” she told the magazine, “and I’ll still fight for it to be heard now.” The result? She’s campaigning to represent Ohio’s 88th district in the state legislature:
“What I’ve learned working, especially with international students, is just understanding different perspectives. And really having empathy for others,” she says. “You need to understand where people are coming from. Right now, it seems very polarized in politics. I think if you can empathize with others, you can possibly reach common ground.”
She has the backing of the Ohio State Democratic Party, and if she wins her May primary, she’ll face two-term incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Reineke. Though the district went for Trump in 2016, Crooks says that, given his “erratic and ineffective” presidency, they may now be rethinking their decision to vote for him.
Crooks, a Ohio native, currently works at Heidelberg University in northwestern Ohio, where she serves as the director of international student recruitment. She cites her experience in working primarily with student affairs in universities, as well as her ties to the state — especially the rural region outside of Toledo that constitutes the 88th district. “I think like a lot of women, because we’ve been historically underrepresented in politics, I didn’t necessarily see myself in this role,” Crooks explains. “Once I sat down and mulled it over, I felt like it really was a duty that I had.”