Claire Russo (pictured), a Democratic congressional candidate in Virginia, has released a first-of-its-kind campaign ad in which she recounts being sexually assaulted.
“It was 2004. I was attending the Marine Corps ball when I was drugged and raped by a superior,” Russo says in the ad. “The military told me they wouldn’t prosecute, but I was determined to find justice. So I took my case to civilian court, and my attacker went to jail, and I refused to let him stop me from serving my country in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m Claire Russo, and I have always run toward the fight. Now, I’m running for Congress to take on the fights that matter most to you.”
The New York Times reports: Her television ad is the first to feature a candidate’s personal recollection of rape, according to political strategists and organizations that track political ads. Set to air on broadcast and cable networks starting this week, the spot is expected to make up a major portion of her advertising, according to her campaign. … As she leans into her history as a survivor of sexual violence, Ms. Russo is aligning herself with a powerful element of the Democratic Party’s identity in the #MeToo era: that it is the party for women, by women. Over the last three years, many Democrats expressed a zero-tolerance stand on sexual misconduct. Though occasionally divisive within the party, that position has allowed Democrats to draw a clear contrast with President Trump. Frustration over Mr. Trump’s history of misogynistic remarks and allegations of sexual violence, as well as the treatment of Christine Blasey Ford during Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in 2018, helped Democrats win control of the House in the midterm elections — largely on the support of suburban women.
Russo, a combat veteran, is running in a crowded Democratic primary in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. As we reported earlier this month, the state GOP is poised to oust incumbent Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman after he officiated a gay wedding last year, and replace him with an anti-LGBT nominee.
More from Roll Call: A handful of other women running for Congress have talked about their personal experience with sexual assault in recent campaigns. Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, a Republican who is one of the 10 most vulnerable senators on the ballot this year, mentions her own military sexual assault in a video she released when she launched her campaign in February. Usha Reddi, a Democratic mayor running for an open Senate seat in Kansas, talked to CQ Roll Call about her decision to prosecute her father for raping her as a child. He pleaded guilty shortly before she launched her campaign. Criticism of how the military deals with sexual assault is not new. CQ Roll Call reported last week that despite promising to do so, the Pentagon had not implemented recommendations made in 2011 by the Government Accountability Office to establish a Defense Department-wide system to monitor how military leaders were combating harassment and assault. On May 15, the chairwoman and ranking Republican on the House subcommittee overseeing Pentagon personnel matters called for “immediate action” on the recommendations.