By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
Updated: Wed, 12 Aug 2020 19:55:35 GMT
A Republican candidate who subscribes to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory prevailed Tuesday night in a House primary runoff in Georgia.
Marjorie Taylor Greene defeated fellow Republican John Cowan in the runoff for Georgia's 14th Congressional District, and her victory in the solidly Republican Georgia district means Greene is all but certain to find herself elected to Washington.
What started three years ago as a conspiracy theory born on the internet's dark fringes has moved into the mainstream with candidates like Greene espousing and promoting QAnon theories and phrases as they seek political office on a major party ticket.
QAnon's main theories claim that dozens of politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a "deep state" effort to thwart President Donald Trump. Another QAnon theory is that Trump will arrest all his wrongdoers like Hillary Clinton and send them to Guantanamo Bay. There is no evidence for these claims.
It's unclear who was behind the posts, or if the ones that followed were posted by the same person -- but followers believe "Q" is knowledgeable because of his or her claim to security clearance within the US government.
Besides Greene, a few other candidates on the November ballot have expressed support or sympathize with QAnon, without calling themselves an outright believer.
Marjorie Taylor Greene
Greene had praised the mythical Q as a "patriot" in a video from 2017 and described the conspiracy theory as "something worth listening to and paying attention to."
She added, "He is someone that very much loves his country, and he's on the same page as us, and he is very pro-Trump."
During a primary debate, Greene was asked if she was a follower of QAnon. She responded by saying in part, "I am committed to my allegiance to the United States of America. I, like many Americans, am disgusted with the Deep State who have launched an effort to get rid of President Trump." She added, "Yes, I'm against all of those things and I will work hard against those issues."
Jo Rae Perkins
In May, Jo Rae Perkins won the Republican nomination for US Senate in Oregon as an unabashed QAnon theory supporter. Perkins, however, faces a tough race to win against incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley.
In a video posted to Twitter following her victory, she showed support for QAnon.
"Where we go one, we go all," she said, using the conspiracy's catchphrase. "I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons and thank you patriots -- and together we can save our republic."
Her campaign deleted the video soon after and released a statement saying she "would never describe herself as a follower," but Perkins, in an ABC News interview, went against her own campaign by reiterating her support for QAnon.
She later posted a video in June of her taking the oath tied to the conspiracy.
Lauren Boebert, a political newcomer, in June delivered a stunning upset to five-term Republican Congressman Scott Tipton in the GOP primary for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District.
Her win was immediately met with criticism from Democrats, who pointed to comments she made that appeared to sympathize with QAnon.
Campaign manager Sherronna Bishop previously told CNN that Boebert was not a follower of QAnon. "She's very glad that the (Inspector General) and the (Attorney General) are investigating the Deep State," Bishop said. "She does not follow QAnon."
But Boebert appeared on an online talk show, Steel Truth, hosted by a prominent purveyor of the theory, Ann Vandersteel, saying that while the QAnon issue is "more my mom's thing," she said she nonetheless is "very familiar with it" and that she "hope[s] that this is real."
"I am familiar with that. And, so, that's more my mom's thing. She's a little fringe. I try to uh, I just try to keep things on track and positive. I am very familiar with it though," she said, adding, "Everything I heard of Q -- I hope that this is real because it only means America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values, and that's what I am for."
QAnon, she said, "is only motivating and encouraging and bringing people together, stronger, and if this is real, then it could be really great for our country."
Mike Cargile, a Republican, is trying to unseat incumbent Democratic Rep. Norma Torres in the race for California's 35th Congressional District.
Cargile says he's a former Army veteran, small businessman and filmmaker, according to his campaign page. His Twitter profile biography includes a mention of the QAnon hashtag -- "#WWG1WGA" or "Where we go one, we go all."
In a statement last month, Cargile said the motto is on his profile "because I think it is the perfect sentiment for all Americans to have toward one another."
"As a prospective legislator, I find it irresponsible and indefensible NOT to seek out the truth on any occurrence, regarding any event," he wrote. He added, "Regarding actual 'Q' intel...we'll see. Only a fool would look at the Washington landscape and conclude that the President has no enemies inside the beltway."
The district is a pretty safe Democratic seat. Torres recently won reelection in 2018 over her Republican challenger by a near 39 percentage point margin and has held the seat since she was first elected in 2014.
A GOP House candidate in Illinois, Theresa Raborn last month promoted a video of Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn swearing a generic oath of office and using phrases and slogans that are hallmarks of QAnon.
"AMEN and CONGRATS!!!!" she tweeted, along with the hashtag, "WWG1WGA."
Raborn told The Washington Post in an article that published earlier this month that she had been on the fence about QAnon and unable to "definitively debunk or definitively confirm."
"But when General Flynn posted that video, he's a highly respected general and has been for decades, and he is very close to President Trump," she told the newspaper. "So I don't think he would do that for a conspiracy theory, or at least logically that's where I'm at. I don't know if he has information about whether it's a conspiracy theory or whether it's real, but it seemed to give a lot of validity to people who support me who also happen to follow Q."
Raborn faces Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly in the fall general election.
Cruz, a Republican running for a House seat in California, has not embraced QAnon to the same degree as others but has told NBC News she believes some of what Q posts is valid and that QAnon believers have "legitimate concerns."
"I think that the biggest thing with QAnon is there's information coming out," she said in an NBC interview published last year. "And sometimes it is in line with what's going on in government. So when you ask me, do I know what QAnon is? Yes, but what is it to everybody else? That's the bigger thing."
The seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz.
This story has been updated.