Is the man believed to be the source of QAnon running for Congress in Arizona?

After throwing support behind Arizona Republicans, Ron Watkins has signalled an interest in running for a House seat

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 15 October 2021 06:56
Ron Watkins announces campaign to run for House seat in Arizona

The former administrator of 8chan and a man widely suspected as the source of QAnon conspiracy theories has filed a statement of interest to run in a Republican primary election for a seat in Congress.

Ron Watkins – who has fuelled a baseless narrative that the results of the 2020 presidential election were fraudulent or manipulated – intends to run for Arizona’s 1st Congressional district seat in the House of Representatives, according to a statement of interest filed with Arizona’s secretary of state on 13 October.

In a video post on Telegram on 14 October, Mr Watkins said he has decided to “double down with God as my compass to take this fight to the swamp of Washington DC.”

“I am here to formally announce my run for Congress in Arizona,” he said. “Under God’s authority, we will take back Congress, flip the Senate and fix the presidency.”

A phone number listed with the filing has a Flagstaff area code and goes to a voicemail that has not been set up. An email attached to the filing matches an email used by Mr Watkins to promote his NFT auction.

In recent days, Mr Watkins has thrown his support behind at least two Arizona Republican politicians, including former state attorney general Tom Horne and Kari Lake, a former local news anchor endorsed by Donald Trump and running to be the state’s next governor.

Mr Watkins may not be eligible to run for office in the state – as of earlier this year, he was still living in Japan – prompting his critics and QAnon analysts to cast his apparent political ambitions as a fundraising scheme.

Arizona’s 1st Congressional seat is currently held by Democrat Tom O’Halleran, who has defeated a Republican opponent three times, likely putting Mr Watkins in a no-shot field of possible contenders.

Mr Watkins’s filing was first reported by Dillon Rosenblatt of Phoenix NPR affiliate KJZZ.

Following his resignation from 8chan in November 2020, Mr Watkins has continued to amplify baseless election-related conspiracy theories – including bogus allegations that votes were manipulated by vote-counting machines – in an attempt to overturn millions of Americans’ votes.

He was named as an expert witness in a lawsuit from discredited election challenger Sidney Powell, and his conspiracy theories were shared across far-right media networks.

His Twitter account was permanently suspended in January following violence at the US Capitol on 6 January, a riot sparked by QAnon and other election-related conspiracy theories and the former president’s persistent lie that the election was “stolen” from him.

Mr Watkins also supported a spurious partisan-driven “audit” of election results in Maricopa County, and in recent days he has sought a meeting with state Attorney General Mark Brnovich for insufficiently supporting GOP efforts to reject results.

Journalists who have closely followed QAnon and a recent HBO documentary series about the movement have placed Mr Watkins as a central figure – if not the source of Q-adjacent posts – in the ideology. He has denied his involvement, insisting he merely administered the forums.

On 14 October, he posted on his Telegram account that “the fake news media continues to insist that I am part of some QANON conspiracy.”

“As we all know, there is no QANON,” he wrote. “What does exist are the many hardworking, God-fearing people who are breaking tyranny’s grasp over our Country.”

QAnon – a decentralised far-right belief system that proliferated on message boards like 8chan – entered mainstream GOP politics in the lead up to 2020 elections, with supporters joining campaign rallies and appearing on the social media feeds of Trump allies, while dozens of Republican candidates for local, state and federal offices across the US had ties to the movement.

Mr Watkins, who has repeatedly promised revelations that never developed, also announced earlier this month that he is “releasing really, really big news” ahead of a QAnon conference in Las Vegas, where he is among guest speakers.

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