QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene wins Georgia House seat

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WASHINGTON – QAnon, the far-right fringe movement that baselessly claims a "deep-state" cabal of pedophiles is trying to bring down President Donald Trump, gained a foothold on the national political stage with Marjorie Taylor Greene's victory Tuesday in a Georgia congressional race.

Tuesday's Election Day ballot in a number of states featured candidates for federal office – almost all Republican – who have been identified as followers of the conspiracy or linked to it in some way.

Most of the more than two dozen House and Senate candidates are not expected to win or come close.

But four U.S. Senate candidates are on the list, including three who will be on the ballot in Delaware, Georgia and Oregon. And more than a dozen House members have made it this far, including Greene, who emerged as a favorite to join Congress after she won the GOP primary in her very Republican district.

QAnon demonstrators on Aug. 22, 2020, in Los Angeles, California.
QAnon demonstrators on Aug. 22, 2020, in Los Angeles, California.

The prospect of a QAnon candidate going to Capitol Hill is worrisome, said Denver Riggleman, a Virginia Republican congressman, former Air Force officer and National Security Agency contractor who writes about extreme belief systems in his new book "Bigfoot ... It's complicated."

"When does it go (from) harmless fun into weaponizing insanity?" he told USA TODAY. "Disinformation or misinformation can become the bedrock of somebody's belief systems. If that happens, we're in real danger as a republic."

More: How QAnon and other dark forces are radicalizing Americans as the COVID-19 pandemic rages and election looms

Here are five candidates to watch Tuesday:

Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia)

Greene, 46, was heavily favored to capture Georgia's 14th Congressional District, succeeding Republican Rep. Tom Graves, who announced last year he would not seek reelection.

She easily beat Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal.

Asked during a primary debate if she was a follower of QAnon, she responded that she's "committed to my allegiance to the United States of America. I, like many Americans, am disgusted with the Deep State who have launched an effort to get rid of President Trump."

She added, "Yes, I'm against all of those things and I will work hard against those issues."

More: Trump calls QAnon conspiracy theory supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene a GOP 'star' after Georgia win

Shunning concerns from Riggleman and others concerned about the influence of QAnon, Republican House leaders have embraced Greene and donated to her campaign.

Trump, who has refused to condemn the group, praised the businesswoman after she won the primary in August.

"Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent," Trump wrote in a tweet. "Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!"

Jo Rae Perkins (Oregon)

Republican challenger Jo Rae Perkins is the GOP nominee in the race to unseat Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, who is seeking a third term.

Perkins, 64, of Albany has a background in financial services. She said she is running to “stand up for law and order” and for the U.S. Constitution.

More: Jeff Merkley, Jo Rae Perkins face off in contest for US Senate

She received national media attention when she won the Republican primary in May, beating three other candidates for that party’s nomination.

On the night of the primary, she posted a video where she held up a sticker with a QAnon slogan, “Where we go one, we go all.” In the video that her campaign later took down, she also thanked “anons” for support, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

On her Twitter account, she has repeatedly posted the QAnon-linked hashtag “WWG1WGA,” which stands for “Where we go one, we go all.”

Perkins has told the Associated Press she's not a follower of the movement but that she uses the QAnon message boards as merely a “source of information” posting articles from various media outlets, tweets and unclassified government documents.

Merkley is a heavy favorite to win re-election in the strongly Democratic-leaning state.

Lauren Boebert (Colorado)

Restaurateur Lauren Boebert, 33, upset five-term incumbent Scott Tipton in the June 30 GOP primary and is a slight favorite to win the Colorado House seat against Democratic State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush.

She expressed support for QAnon during an online interview in May saying she was "very familiar" with Q but saying it was "more my mom's thing ... she's a little fringe."

Asked what she thought of the movement, Boebert spoke favorably of it.

David Reinert holds a large "Q" sign while waiting in line on to see President Donald J. Trump at his rally Aug. 2, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre, Pa. "Q" represents QAnon, a conspiracy theory group that has been seen at recent rallies.
David Reinert holds a large "Q" sign while waiting in line on to see President Donald J. Trump at his rally Aug. 2, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre, Pa. "Q" represents QAnon, a conspiracy theory group that has been seen at recent rallies.

"Everything that I've heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means America's getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values and that's what I am for," she told host Ann Vandersteel. "And so everything that I've heard of this movement is only motivating and encouraging and bringing people together, stronger. And if this is real, it could be really great for our country."

Boebert, who has not run for political office, has tried to walk back any connection with Q, telling the New York Times in September "I'm not a follower of the group."

She also told USA TODAY in August that "QAnon is a lot of things to different people ... I was very vague in what I said before. I’m not into conspiracies. I’m into freedom and the Constitution of the United States of America. I’m not a follower."

Lauren Witzke (Delaware)

Republican Lauren Witzke won the Sept. 15 primary in Delaware but lost decisively to Democratic Sen. Chris Coons in a race where the incumbent loomed asa prohibitive favorite.

Witzke, who calls herself "unapologetically America First" while opposing a "globalist, open border agenda," tweeted the QAnon slogan in March.

QAnon: Here's what to know about the far-right conspiracy theory

She has tried to distance herself from any ties to the movement, telling the Associated Press in January she had stopped promoting QAnon months earlier even though that was two months before her March tweet. She dismissed the movement as "mainstream psyops to get people to 'trust the plan' and not do anything," referring to a trademark phrase the movement's followers have adopted.

"I certainly think it's more hype than substance," she told the AP.

Derrick Grayson (Georgia)

Republican Derrick Grayson is running in a special election for the U.S. Senate seat that GOP incumbent Kelly Loeffler now holds.

Because it's an open primary, his name will appear with other candidates who qualified from both parties. If no one wins at least 50.1%, there would be a run-off between the top two finishers in January. Grayson is not expected to make it to the run-off.

Grayson is a minister who said he's been "active in the Liberty Movement." He describes himself as "an unapologetic Constitutionalist, who was willing to and did, challenge career politicians who've turned a blind eye to the reality of what this great nation is becoming."

In July, he tweeted the QAnon slogan along with a video about the Federal Reserve, a frequent target of the fringe movement's globalist conspiracies.

Contributing: Savanah Behrmann of USA TODAY, the Statesman Journal and the Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene wins Georgia House seat