Kerri Branson may be running for office in Kane County's 18th District, but she isn't hiding from her past.
More than 20 years ago, the North Aurora Democrat, now 42, enjoyed a brief career as a nude, lingerie, swimsuit and video game model. She appeared in about a dozen Playboy-produced newsstand specials in the 1990s and 2000s, but never shot for the main magazine.
Those pictorials found their way to producers at Midway Video Games, who created several video game characters using Branson's face, body and martial arts skills. Those characters include Sonya Blade, a fighter who appeared in all of the Mortal Kombat games starting with the third incarnation, a cheerleader in NBA Jam 2004 and two characters in Revolution X.
Branson's work with Mortal Kombat led to a related martial arts tour across the United States and parts of South America in which she served as the tour's spokeswoman. Dressed as Sonya Blade, Branson spoke to kids about staying in school and away from drugs.
Her career started in 1989 when she was 19 -- she dropped out of school at the University of Minnesota to pursue it full time. But she left the business in 1997 to focus on raising her twin sons, who have cerebral palsy.
The gaming community is abuzz about her run for office, and on Friday Branson discussed her modeling in an interview on a Rockford radio station.
Branson embraces her past, because it took her off the farm in Minnesota and brought her to Illinois, where she met her husband, Scott.
She's also enjoying the newfound attention, because it's allowing her to reconnect with her fans.
"I don't regret my past," Branson said. "My past has gotten me where I am today and because of that I think I'm a stronger person and I'm very capable to take this (county) position."
People have asked about her modeling on the campaign trail, but so far, everyone's been positive about it, she said. She just hopes it won't became a distraction from her platform of supporting people with special needs.
"I am who I am, I'm not going to change for everybody," said Branson, who is new to politics. "If they don't like my past and they don't agree with it and they don't like where I am today ... don't vote for me."
Incumbent Drew Frasz isn't so sure Branson's past will play well with the conservative base she hopes to represent in the largely rural and small-town district that includes parts of Elburn, North Aurora, Kaneville and Maple Park.
He's also tired of his male Republican colleagues joking about supporting Branson over him for her racy pictures.
Frasz, 56, admits he could probably bury Branson with her history. But he's decided not to go there.
"I would think anyone running for office, if you have that kind of information all over the web, its something that most of their opponents would consider a gold mine," Frasz said. "It's not a good thing to have naked pictures of yourself out there. The only thing I can guarantee is I don't."
Frasz, of Elburn is more concerned about Branson's ability to make time for the board, given she's raising four children and in the midst of opening an art studio.
But Branson says she's a multi-tasker and already has walked away from jobs she had as a race director, a graphic designer and personal trainer to make room for the county board.
"I have no doubt I'll have the time I need to serve," Branson said.