A woman with whom an Ohio state lawmaker exchanged sexual text messages has launched a campaign to unseat him and threatened to release more details about their relationship if he doesn’t resign.
The unusual faceoff between Republican Rep. Rick Perales, of Beavercreek, and nurse Jocelyn Smith, of Fairfield, has exploded out of nowhere just weeks before a May 8 primary.
Perales acknowledges exchanging texts with Smith in 2015 that he describes as “flirtatious.” He has said they included topless photos of Smith and sexually-tinged messages. The two met when Smith came to Perales as his constituent with an idea for a license plate to raise money for cancer research.
Campaign spokesman Daniel Palmer said Perales previously informed his wife and GOP House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger about the texts. Perales’ campaign says the sexting went on over three months.
Smith has since escalated her claims, alleging that Perales forcibly kissed and choked her as they were leaving their first meeting in public. Perales denies having any physical contact with Smith, including kissing.
Rosenberger’s spokesman Brad Miller said the kissing and choking allegations were new and that Rosenberger is investigating.
Smith’s campaign and claims come as lawmakers across the country face allegations of sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement continues to raise awareness. Some state legislatures, including Ohio’s, have strengthened policies on sexual harassment scandals, including one that prompted an Ohio state senator to resign last year.
Smith’s campaign spokesman, Ralph Wunder, acknowledges that Smith sees her tie-in to the national movements as a way to gain traction against Perales.