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A follower of QAnon, a conspiracy theory that has been spreading from the far fringes of right-wing social media into more mainstream Republican circles, won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Oregon Tuesday, crediting fellow followers for her victory.
“Where we go one, we go all,” said candidate Jo Rae Perkins in a tweet published prior to the results coming in, quoting a popular slogan from the conspiracy theory. “I stand with President Trump, I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. Together, we can save our republic.”
During a victory speech live-streamed to social media, Perkins concluded by saying, “As we Q people like to say, ‘Where we go one, we go all.’”
On Wednesday afternoon, Perkins deleted both of the election night videos containing QAnon references.
QAnon is a theory built around belief in an international conspiracy of high-ranking government officials to kidnap, abuse, torture and kill children — the delusion under which an armed North Carolina man attempted a rescue mission at a Washington pizzeria in 2016, the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy seen as a precursor to QAnon. President Trump, in the Q worldview, is working behind the scenes to expose and disrupt this conspiracy but has been thwarted by “deep-state” bureaucrats and global elites. The narrative is fed by cryptic posts on internet message boards from the anonymous “Q,” who followers believe to be a high-ranking intelligence official, or possibly even Trump himself. Popular YouTube and social media pages promulgate and analyze Q’s vague messages, turning the obsession into something of a game for many followers.
Perkins is the former Republican chairwoman in Linn County, located just south of the capital city, Salem, and had run in prior Republican primaries in 2014 (U.S. Senate), 2016 and 2018 (the state’s Fourth Congressional District). She was originally running for the House seat again in 2020 but withdrew to enter the Senate race. As of the latest results, Perkins had earned just short of 50 percent of the vote in the four-candidate race. The runner-up was former naval officer Paul Romero, who reached 30 percent.
Perkins has made her support of QAnon a central plank of her campaign, telling Right Wing Watch in a January interview, “It’s a very highly calculated risk that I’m taking. Most people play it a lot safer than I do. It’s either pure genius or pure insanity. It’s one of the two. The voters are going to have to be the ones that make that decision.”
“I think that there’s probably a lot of us out there, but I just happen to be bold enough to say, ‘Hey, I’m following Q because I want to know, because if the Q team is real, I want to know about it,’” Perkins added in the same interview, in which she compared believing in Q to believing in Jesus Christ, as a matter of faith that transcends proof.
“Q is most likely military intelligence,” suggested Perkins in the interview, “and they've been out there watching what's been going on with our country for decades and they are partnered with President Trump to stop the corruption and to save our republic.”
Trump has retweeted accounts that promote QAnon, and his rallies have had plenty of attendees sporting Q-related apparel and signs. Last year, Yahoo News reported that an FBI document had identified QAnon as one of the “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” that were potential terrorist threats.
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states. It also goes on to say the FBI believes conspiracy-theory-driven extremists are likely to increase during the 2020 presidential election cycle.
The memo noted a 2018 incident in which a heavily armed man in an armored truck was arrested after blocking traffic on the Hoover Dam. He was demanding the release of the inspector general's report on Hillary Clinton, an obsession of QAnon supporters. In February, the man, 32-year-old Matthew Wright, pleaded guilty to making a domestic terrorism threat, aggravated assault and unlawful flight from a pursuing law enforcement vehicle. Two assault-style rifles, two handguns and 900 rounds of ammunition were found in the armored truck.
Last year, the lawyer for a man accused of killing a New Jersey mob boss said his client’s “support for ‘QAnon’ went beyond mere participation in a radical political organization. It evolved into a delusional obsession.”
According to the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, dozens of candidates who support QAnon attempted or are in the process of attempting congressional bids in the 2020 cycle.
Perkins will be up against incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley, who first won the seat in 2008. Merkley won his 2014 reelection bid by 19 points, but recent margins in statewide contests have been closer, with Clinton winning the state by 11 points in 2016 and Democratic Gov. Katie Brown winning by 7 points in 2018. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the other member of the state’s U.S. Senate delegation, won his bid for reelection by 23 points in 2016.
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