A QAnon conspiracy theorist won the GOP Senate primary in Oregon on Tuesday, giving a massive electoral stage to the bizarre pro-Trump movement that the FBI considers a potential domestic terror threat.
Jo Rae Perkins, an insurance agent and avowed QAnon believer, handily won the contest to take on Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) in the general election. Perkins, who has launched unsuccessful Senate and House bids in the past, beat her nearest Republican primary opponent by nearly 20 percentage points on Tuesday.
To celebrate, Perkins tweeted a video acknowledging the support she had received from QAnon believers. The victory speech included references to QAnon slogan “Where we go one, we go all,” QAnon followers who call themselves “Anons,” and “Q,” the anonymous person or group whose “clues” make up the basis of QAnon.
“I stand with President Trump, I stand with Q and the team,” Perkins said, holding up a sign with a QAnon slogan on it. “Thank you Anons, thank you patriots.”
Perkins deleted the video on Wednesday afternoon, amid press coverage of her primary win. She didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The Oregon Republican Party didn’t respond to a request for comment about the state party’s stance on Perkins or QAnon. But Perkins’ victory is the latest in the remarkable evolution of a state GOP apparatus that was not always so dominated by the far-right fringe. Indeed, Republicans held a Senate seat in Oregon as recently as 2009. And Merkley only narrowly won his first general election for the seat then held by Sen. Gordon Smith (R) in 2008, winning by only three percentage points. He’ll likely fare much better against Perkins.
Beyond the boundaries of Oregon, Perkins’ primary win also represents how far conspiracy theorists have ascended in national politics. QAnon supporters believe in an elaborate conspiracy theory that posits that Donald Trump is engaged in a secret war against a “cabal” made up pedophile-cannibals in the global elite and Democratic Party. They are also convinced that Trump will soon imprison or execute top Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Despite its bizarre claims, QAnon has won prominent converts, including comedian Roseanne Barr, former baseball player Curt Schilling, and several Instagram influencers. Donald Trump has invited QAnon promoters to the White House, and frequently retweets them. His nominee for director of national intelligence, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), followed a number of QAnon accounts onTwitter.
QAnon believers have been charged with a host of violent crimes that appear to have been connected to their beliefs, including two murders, a terrorist incident involving an armored truck and guns near the Hoover Dam, and two child-abduction plots. In April, a QAnon believer allegedly claiming that she planned to kill former Vice President Joe Biden was arrested with illegal knives.
Perkins seemed at least self-aware that the views she held put her on the far fringe of the politically acceptable. She told Right Wing Watch in January that she was taking a risk running as an open QAnon believer.
“It’s either pure genius or pure insanity,” Perkins said. “It’s one of the two. The voters are going to have to be the ones that make that decision.”
But Perkins isn’t just a casual QAnon believer. She appears to be well-versed in the conspiracy theory, even appearing on a YouTube show to decode QAnon “clues.”
In a May 5 video with QAnon promoters “ShadyGrooove” and “InTheMatrixxx”—two prominent QAnon figures who have teamed up with an alleged cult leader to push their theories—Perkins said she was initially convinced that the coronavirus lockdown was actually cover for Trump to arrest top Democrats.
“President Trump was going to flip the switch and say ‘go and do those arrests that we’ve all been waiting for,’” Perkins said.
Perkins added that the coronavirus is a “fake virus” and described herself as “red-pilled”—QAnon code meaning she’s been “awakened” by the conspiracy theory.
When Obama failed to be arrested and tried at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, however, Perkins didn’t take it as a sign that QAnon is fake. Instead, she claimed on the YouTube show that the arrests had failed to happen because of some unspecified failing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), adding that “the judges aren’t in place.”
Perkins also used the YouTube appearance for a chance to raise some campaign funds. She badly needs them—Perkins has raised roughly $24,000 as of April 29, compared to Merkley’s $4.3 million.
Still, QAnon believers have tried to shell out for her campaign. On the podcast, the host “InTheMatrixxx” urged his fans to back Perkins.
“She doesn’t have the deep-state pockets, folks,” he said.