Controversy surrounding her belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory has not cost Oregon Republican Senate nominee Jo Rae Perkins any endorsements since she won the primary election and brought widespread attention to her campaign.
Perkins’ now-deleted May 19 Election Day video made several references to the QAnon theory and featured her saying she stood with “Q” and holding up a QAnon sticker. The next day, her campaign released a statement distancing Perkins from the theory, saying she was not a follower. But she disputed that statement in interviews given the following day.
The QAnon conspiracy theory claims a shadowy cabal of liberal elites runs a global human trafficking ring while also conducting ritualistic abuse and sacrifice of children. Many supporters of the theory say President Donald Trump is working to dismantle the “deep state,” a reference to the governmental portion of the “cabal,” and bring down the supposed trafficking ring.
Two years of Perkins’ social media history reviewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive shows Perkins regularly expressed support for the conspiracy theory and appeared on prominent QAnon web shows.
Larry McDonald, Perkins’ campaign manager, said the attention she has garnered for her support of QAnon is “much ado about nothing.” McDonald said Perkins does not believe in all facets of the QAnon theory.
“She certainly does not believe in the child sex trafficking ring or whatever that nonsense is,” McDonald said. “That’s just crazy. As far as the deep state, well, it exists.”
McDonald said Perkins’ following of QAnon was an “open secret.”
Most of Perkins’ endorsers, however, say they did not know about Perkins’ views before they gained national prominence. Still, many have reaffirmed their support for her in the race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley.
Perkins was endorsed by the Oregon Right to Life PAC, Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence and at least two other Republican nominees.
Liberty Pike, deputy director for the Oregon Right to Life PAC, told The Oregonian/OregonLive the group will not be rescinding its endorsement of Perkins. Pike said the group is a “single-issue organization” and endorsed Perkins without knowledge of her involvement with the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Nearman, the only elected official to endorse Perkins to date, described her as a “friend,” and “good conservative.” Nearman said he did not know much about QAnon.
Nearman said in a follow-up interview that he had subsequently researched the theory on Wikipedia and believed the portion of the theory pertaining to a “deep state” conspiracy against Trump was credible.
McDonald said Perkins’ belief in the QAnon conspiracy centers around her concern about the “surveillance state.”
In a January interview on a QAnon YouTube show, Perkins discussed how she shared her views with others.
“We’d red pill people — now we’re Q pilling people,” Perkins said, referring to “The Matrix,” in which a red pill is taken to reveal the true nature of the world. “My campaign team is getting Q pilled.”
Adam Keaton, who chairs the Republican Party in Linn County, Perkins’ home county, said the organization supports Perkins’ campaign, as they would any other Republican candidate.
“The very little that I know about the QAnon stuff suggests to me that it’s harmless in a worst-case scenario,” Keaton said.
In February 2020, a QAnon follower pleaded guilty to charges related to terrorism for blocking a bridge over the Hoover Dam with an armored truck that contained several guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. In March 2019, a different QAnon follower allegedly killed mob boss Francesco Cali in New York.
Alek Skarlatos, who won the Republican primary for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District to challenge Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio, is listed on Perkins’ campaign website as having endorsed her candidacy. Campaign officials declined to discuss the endorsement in an email, but Skarlatos’ campaign manager Ross Purgason told the Oregonian/OregonLive that Skarlatos was unaware of Perkins’ involvement in the QAnon conspiracy theory.
“Alek does not support the views of Jo Rae Perkins,” his campaign said in a statement.
Jack Esp, the Republican nominee for the Oregon House of Representatives 21st District in Marion County, is also listed on Perkins’ website as an endorser. During a phone interview, he declined to answer a question about his endorsement and hung up.
Multiple calls to the Oregon Republican Party were not returned Tuesday. However, McDonald said the Oregon Republican Party was “on-board.”
— K. Rambo
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