Rob Anderson speaks during a debate between candidates running to represent Louisiana's Third Congressional District on Thursday, October 22, 2020, in the Moncus Auditorium Theatre at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in downtown Lafayette.

Osh Leveque was desperate for a job last year, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Her social media pleas for help yielded an exciting solution: A political candidate she admired messaged her about working for his congressional campaign.

Leveque had voted for Rob Anderson in 2018 in his first run against incumbent Republican Clay Higgins, known for right-wing views and often outlandish commentary. Anderson seemed like a blue-collar, progressive antidote, and Leveque was excited to work on his second campaign.

Leveque found Anderson’s personality matched his persona. He was down-to-earth and easy to get along with, not to mention a fearless advocate for progressive causes: “a driller who has read a lot of books,” as he described himself.

Anderson and Leveque hit it off, and they had a brief fling that ended mutually after a few weeks.

“I wasn’t attracted to him sexually before this all happened, but I was attracted to him and his charisma and his political views. I admired him and was attracted to who he was, as a person, as a candidate. It just kind of progressed,” Leveque said.

But by the end of the campaign, which earned him an ardent national fan base that called themselves the “Rob Mob,” Leveque held a much dimmer view of her boss. With a Twitter following that soared past 140,000, Anderson’s humility gave way to self-importance, Leveque and other staffers said.

“His Twitter use was nonstop all day long, every day,” Leveque said. “Something changed in him, and his ego just started to grow. His negativity toward others was pretty frequent.”

Anderson joined No Dem Left Behind, a coalition of Democratic congressional candidates in deep-red districts that enlisted celebrity support. Actor Mark Hamill, best known as Luke Skywalker, filmed a YouTube ad telling viewers that Anderson is “personable, he’s relatable, he’s working-class.”

But Anderson’s Twitter stardom meant little in Louisiana’s 3rd District, where Higgins crushed three opponents, taking more than two-thirds of the vote. Anderson fell shy of 12%, six percentage points behind the top Democrat.

In addition to building his fan base, Anderson used his campaign Twitter account to send nude selfies to women. A pseudonymous Twitter user known for exposing sexual misconduct allegations posted a sampling last week, sparking a war between the “Rob Mob” and several women accusing him of harassment. Screenshots of his lewd direct messages circulated.

Recriminations for Louisiana’s most Twitter-famous progressive were swift.

“I’m already ruined,” Anderson said in a phone interview Thursday, two days after the photos appeared.

A close friend and business partner quickly cut ties, killing a podcast venture the two had hoped to leverage from Anderson’s Twitter base.

Amid the backlash, attention turned to Anderson’s missing campaign finance reports. He has not filed any since the first quarter of last year, leaving the months covering his meteoric rise unaccounted for. Anderson blamed his staff for failing to file the reports.

Anderson says his political career is over.

“I may be Twitter famous, but nobody in Louisiana knows who the hell I am. Although they probably will now,” he said.

‘I need to start sexually harassing you’

Among Anderson’s accusers is a former campaign volunteer who says he sent her a nude photo of himself. It happened last summer, she said, as his fame accelerated. She said she did not ask for the photo, and she did not appreciate him sending it.

The Advocate agreed not to disclose the woman’s name or other identifying information, because she fears Anderson will retaliate. Multiple staffers confirmed that she worked as a volunteer.

The woman said she deleted the photo, but she shared other messages in which Anderson, unbidden, sent her shirtless selfies.

“I need to start sexually harassing you,” Anderson wrote in one message.

The woman said they had started chatting privately after Anderson noticed her posts about difficult situations from her past. She figured he was safe to talk to, since he was married.

“The way he came across was that he could feel I was in pain,” she said. “Wanting to be that comforting friend, and have me talk about it.”

Anderson seemed uninterested in the woman’s work on his campaign, she said, and he quickly escalated their friendly chats to flirtatious comments and sometimes incoherent evening musings. She said she tried unsuccessfully to steer the chats back to business.

Staying in Anderson’s good graces without encouraging his unseemly behavior was difficult, she said.

“Even though I was volunteer status, he was an employer, he was a reference. I was trying my hardest not to lose it on him. Trying to be professional, trying to be polite,” she said.

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Meanwhile, Leveque said, Anderson continued his habit of touching her bottom for about two months after they stopped sleeping together.

Leveque said she did not like the touching and was careful not to reciprocate, but she also did not tell him to stop. She rationalized it as “residual flirtation.”

“It became something he was too comfortable with," Leveque said. "There were other people in the house. The more it happened, the more I became uncomfortable with it because I didn’t want that to be discovered.”

Anderson, who says he is in a non-monogamous marriage, acknowledged he sent nude photos to at least a dozen women. He vehemently denied doing so without permission, adding that every sexual photo exchange was initiated by the women. He said he typically receives “a thousand new requests a week from women wanting to talk.”

On one previous occasion this year, prior to the recent dustup, Anderson publicly apologized for sending an unsolicited, suggestive shirtless photo to a Twitter fan. He insisted it was an isolated incident, and he scoffed at the idea he would “need to” send nudes without consent.

“You should see the s--t I’ve gotten over the past two years. C’mon. People say hello with naked pictures when you’re famous. It sucks. I promise you,” he said.

In an interview, Anderson cycled between contrition and blame, profusely apologizing for bad decisions while slamming his accusers. He said they are part of a “cabal” that plotted to blackmail him. He restricted his Twitter account to approved users, revising his bio to read: “Responsible for my own actions.” The account appeared to be deactivated as of Monday afternoon. 

Anderson started with a one-word denial when asked if he continued touching Leveque after their relationship ended: “No.” He then gave a string of contradictory answers.

He first conceded it may have happened once, but corrected himself mid-sentence to say it would have been her shoulder, not her rear.

“Am I still doing the boss-flirting-touching-the-butt thing? No, that doesn’t sound like me at all,” he said.

Anderson then said he may have occasionally touched Leveque’s hip, pondering out loud if he did it with flirtatious intent. No, he decided: The touches were necessary to move past one another in tight spaces.

“You know what, I’m trying to think. Is it possible that I switched the gears and just went back?” Anderson said.

When told Leveque was describing moments they were alone, Anderson questioned her motives.

“I’m sorry she’s saying that. That’s too bad,” Anderson said. “Is she trying to get money out of me? I don’t have any, I’m broke.”

‘Twitter isn’t real life’

Anderson, 52, moved to DeQuincy around 2017 after working around the country in various fields, most recently geotechnical drilling. He immediately set about running for Congress, finishing in the single digits while Higgins dominated a field of seven.

Anderson started organizing his 2020 campaign just prior to the pandemic lockdown. A four-person core consisting of Anderson, Leveque and two other staffers, Clare Stagg and Dave Langlinais, grew close as they worked out of Langlinais’s house. They formed a social pod, frequently sharing dinners, drinks and personal conversations.

But the two women staffers experienced Anderson as increasingly dictatorial as he became fixated on Twitter. They worried that his Twitter fame had divorced him from reality in southwest Louisiana.

“I think he thought that was enough to mean that he was a big name,” said Stagg, the campaign manager. “Everything else in the campaign fell by the wayside to him, no matter how much you told him, ‘Twitter isn’t real life, your following is not in the district.’”

Langlinais, who supplied the startup funding to help launch Anderson’s weekly podcast, said he has stopped speaking to Anderson.

In their last conversation, Langlinais said Anderson swore, as he has in public, that he had never sent nude photos without permission. While that distinction matters as a character judgment, it has no bearing on their now-destroyed friendship, he said.

“Even if it was solicited, it’s still an incredibly stupid thing for him to have done. He put all of our careers at jeopardy. We are kind of sunk now. He damn well should have known that,” Langlinais said.

Stagg said she wishes she had paid more attention to an early red flag: Anderson insisted on total control of his social media accounts, barring any staff access. Candidates often run their own accounts, Stagg said, but Anderson was the first she knew who locked out campaign staffers altogether.

“Of course he didn’t want anybody to have his Twitter, because of what was in his DMs,” she said, referring to direct messages.

Anderson said he maintained exclusive control so he could vouch for anything posted under his name, and because he feared his brand could be sullied. He said he did not trust anyone to duplicate his voice.

“I was not being made famous because of what I was doing, but because of the way I described what I was doing,” he said.

Email Ben Myers at Follow Ben Myers on Twitter, @blevimyers.