Activism

Published on October 2nd, 2018 | by Ryan Michael

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The Story of Rachel Crooks: From Trump Tower to the Ohio Statehouse

Few state representative candidates in Ohio have the level of national name recognition and prominence that Rachel Crooks, a Democratic candidate for the state’s 88th district in Tiffin, Ohio, possesses. Crooks is challenging incumbent Republican state representative Bill Reineke for the northwestern Ohio seat.

Now, the girl from Green Springs, Ohio is using her platform to help her fellow Ohioans and working to win back a statehouse seat that has not been held by a Democrat for more than 20 years.

Rachel Crooks is among well over a dozen women who have come forward to relay their tales of sexual harassment or assault at the hands of President Donald Trump.

In the month preceding the 2016 presidential election, Crooks detailed to the New York Times a 2005 incident — she was then a 22-year old receptionist at an investment firm with offices in Trump Tower — that saw Trump forcibly grab and repeatedly kiss her just outside of the office.

For a woman who had just left the confines of her small Ohio town to move to New York City, the encounter was unforgettable and jarring. Crooks immediately emailed her mother and sister to tell them of the incident — messages she shared with the Washington Post. Those emails proved to be the first of countless times that Crooks shared her message with family, women, activists, the media and the electorate.

“This is about character and someone who clearly has no respect for women leading our nation and we’ve just let that continue,” Crooks told The Guardian in a recent interview. She was in no way shocked to see his denials extend to Republican political allies accused of similar crimes: “We should not be surprised he’s nominated Brett Kavanaugh and stood by Roy Moore and other men who have been in similar situations.”

Trump’s presidential campaign and eventual victory proved to be a political awakening for Crooks. In addition to sharing her story in the news, Crooks took to the streets. She participated in the inaugural Women’s March in the nation’s capital and again in the follow-up march a year later in Columbus.

 

Relationships forged during those marches helped to launch Crooks’ political career, where she found that sharing her story — no matter how many times it needed to be told — was an inspiration to others.

Now, the girl from Green Springs, Ohio is using her platform to help her fellow Ohioans and working to win back a statehouse seat that has not been held by a Democrat for more than 20 years.

Crooks is a true grassroots campaigner, pulling in just under $40 per donation on average from smaller individual donors.

“As someone who has seen the positive impacts that education and going to college can have on someone’s life, that resonates with me,” Crooks told Rolling Stone, also detailing plans to reduce income inequality and institute a fairer taxation system.

Crooks has pledged to support American Promise, a political group working to overturn Citizens United and get unlimited contributions of dark money out of our politics. Many feel that her grassroots campaign is emblematic of the kind of candidate that Democrats and our state need and she has specifically pledged to support “the many, not the few.”

This is, of course, a stark contrast to her opponent in the 88th district. Bill Reineke, a Republican who won his seat unopposed in the previous election, averages a stunning $1,276 per donation to his campaign. Crooks is a true grassroots campaigner, pulling in just under $40 per donation on average from smaller individual donors.

“Having my campaign endorsed by President Obama, who himself once served in the state legislature, is an incredible honor.”

Reineke’s money problems extend beyond the fact that he’s so clearly beholden to corporate money and special interest. The Sandusky Register has reported that Reineke received and continues to keep ECOT donations, a deeply corrupt and failed online charter school that has ignited a corruption crisis across the state. Schools in the 88th district lost $8.2 million to ECOT before its failure.

To date, Reineke has refused to appear at a single debate with Crooks and that does not appear to be changing any time soon. The Republican incumbent has refused multiple requests from the Register to set up a debate from the two candidates, which Crooks accurately described as “very sad.”

Regardless of whether or not Reineke ever does do the right thing and sit down to debate Crooks, she’s continued to charge hard in this race and make a fight out of a previously unopposed election.

Crooks, of course, has significant on-the-ground support in her hometown and the surrounding areas of the district — she lives less than a half an hour drive down state State Route 101 from her childhood home — but she has national help now as well.

Former President Barack Obama endorsed Rachel Crooks in her election bid, making her one of just nine candidates in Ohio’s state level races to receive the honor.

“Having my campaign endorsed by President Obama, who himself once served in the state legislature, is an incredible honor. He is a man of integrity who served our country honorably for eight years, and now continues to inspire us with calls for hope and unity,” Crooks said in a statement to Bustle. “I share his progressive values and his vision for a government that reflects the people it serves. As a state representative, I will work hard to advocate for all Ohioans and make positive changes for the people in my district.”

Rachel Crooks’ evolution and rapid rise in state-level politics is a situation that bears watching for all Ohioans, but none moreso than those in the 88th district. Her bid to unseat Bill Reineke would represent a huge victory for women, champions of progressive values and working people across the Buckeye State.

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