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QAnon promoter Ron Watkins is running for Congress in Arizona

Posted at 2:03 PM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 16:03:05-04

Ron Watkins, long-suspected of being "Q", the mysterious figure behind the QAnon conspiracy theory and one of the leading purveyors of the "Big Lie" 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.

"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. "President Trump had his election stolen not just in Arizona, but in other states too. We must now take this fight to Washington, D.C., and vote out all the dirty Democrats who have stolen our republic."

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."

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 was banned from Twitter two days after the January 6 insurrection attempt on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and has since amassed over 436,000 subscribers on Telegram. He has repeatedly pushed the Big Lie on Telegram, and was instrumental in seeding disinformation around the Republican state Senate-ordered Maricopa County election review this summer.

He used to be the administrator of the conspiracy-laden 8chan message board, where QAnon flourished. In mid-winter 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 2020 election with other right-wing allies of Donald Trump, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Watkins has also endorsed other Republican candidates for office in Arizona, recently meeting with Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a former news anchor now running for the Republican nomination in the state. It is unclear if Watkins lives in the district, but previously he lived in Japan.

Arizona's 1st District is currently the state's largest district, and 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.