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QAnon promoter Ron Watkins is running for Congress in Arizona

QAnon promoter announces run for Congress
QAnon promoter announces run for Congress 06:43

Ron Watkins, long-suspected of being "Q", the mysterious figure behind the QAnon conspiracy theory and one of the leading purveyors of the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump, announced his candidacy for Congress in Arizona this week.

In a video posted to the social media platform Telegram, Watkins said that he was running for the Republican nomination in Arizona's 1st Congressional District to defeat the "dirtiest Democrat in the D.C. swamp," incumbent Congressman Tom O'Halleran, who has held the seat for four years. He joins a field of four Republicans who've made their bids official, but several more are still expected to run.

"We must stay vigilant and keep up the pressure both here in Arizona and throughout the country to indict any and all criminals who have facilitated election fraud," Watkins said in the video. He called on supporters to "take this fight to Washington, D.C., and vote out all the dirty Democrats who have stolen our republic."

Arizona's 1st Congressional District includes parts of Maricopa County, which was critical to President Biden's slim victory in the state. Afterward, supporters of Mr. Trump made baseless claims about election fraud, which were disproven by subsequent audits. The county was also the site of a controversial GOP state Senate-ordered 2020 ballot review that was widely criticized for its handling of the ballots and voting equipment and general lack of expertise in election audits.

Watkins is a newcomer to the district he hopes to represent — he told CBS News that he moved to Arizona in the last three weeks.

In an interview with CBS News, Watkins denied any involvement in the QAnon conspiracy: "I am not Q. I never have been Q. I've never written a Q post. I've never collaborated with the people that have written a Q post. So, no, I was not involved in that." 

While Watkins has repeatedly said on his channel that there "is no QAnon," comments replying to his campaign announcement are flooding in with QAnon slogans and ideology. QAnon influencers use the phrase "There is no QAnon" to suggest that it's a media construct, and that adherents disseminating "information" are nonviolent "patriots." 

He told CBS News that he sees the "Make America Great Again" wing of the Republican Party as the dominant wing, and accused GOP leaders of "trying to make money and grift" off the movement's candidates.

"[Trump] is the kingmaker for the Republican Party and he is above and beyond what the Republican Party can do. The Republican Party just drags him down." Watkins said. "The Republican Party right now is just trying to drag down all of the MAGA candidates."

Since President Biden's victory over former President Trump in the 2020 election, QAnon has splintered into different factions but the general ideology remains the same: Democrats and a cabal of pedophiles and devil worshipers control the government and must be stopped.

Watkins has announced his support for other Republicans running for office in Arizona, recently meeting with Trump-endorsed Kari Lake, a former news anchor now campaigning for Arizona governor.

He used to be the administrator of the conspiracy-laden 8chan message board, where QAnon flourished. In 2020, Watkins announced he was stepping down as the site's administrator and since then, he has since continued to promote conspiracy theories about the election with other right-wing allies of Donald Trump, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. 

Arizona's 1st District is one of its more competitive ones. O'Halleran won there by just three points in 2020, and is being targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2022. The state's independent redistricting commission is in the process of drawing maps, but a draft released last week shrunk the size of the district in a way that would make it slightly more Republican.

"Just when you think the GOP candidates in AZ-01 can't get any more extreme, a literal QAnon ring leader jumps in the race," Johanna Warshaw, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson, said in a statement.

The National Republican Campaign Committee told CBS News that it does not get involved in primary elections.

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