Scandal nets Virginia candidate donations, marriage proposal

Virginia congressional candidate Krystal Ball had her first taste of bare-knuckle politics last week when photos posted on the Internet posed a new challenge to the 28-year-old’s uphill battle to unseat incumbent Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanNavy chief: On scale of 1 to 10, adequate funding 'scores an 11' Va. lawmakers introduce bill to guarantee back pay for furloughed federal workers Navy official: Budget, readiness issues led to ship collisions MORE (R).

But during a meet-and-greet lunch for donors in D.C. on Monday, Ball showed fortitude and a sense of humor as she vividly described what it was like to go from being a relative political unknown to “the third-most-searched name in the world on Google.”

“I first heard the news [of racy photos from her college days surfacing online] from my husband,” Ball told the three dozen guests. “And I cried for hours. I had a campaign stop at a Rotary Club that same night, where it was going to be mostly older, white men, and I was terrified.”

But as the young candidate drove to the event, a friend put on Van Morrison’s classic song, “Days Like This,” and Ball began to feel better.

“One older man came up to me later that night,” she recalled, “and he said, ‘I’m a lifelong Republican, but you’ve got my vote because those photos show you’ve got a sense of humor and you have a life.’ ”

The photos were taken at a costume party Ball attended with her then-husband in 2004. Ball is shown wearing a leotard and a Santa hat, holding a leash attached to the man’s neck.

A few days after the photos surfaced, Ball penned a response published in the Huffington Post, a task she said was “very difficult, and raw, because I’m a private person.” But she said advisers encouraged her to set an example for young women considering a career in politics.

“I got some great advice,” she said, “but I got some really bad advice from people, too, who said, ‘Just put your head down and be quiet.’ ”

Ball said her fundraising numbers jumped after the scandal went viral, with donors, many of them women, from around the country sending her relatively small amounts — “But they add up.”

Ball even received a marriage proposal from one male fan, who praised her courage and noted that while he had a girlfriend and Ball is married, “things might have been different.”