QAnon candidate Ron Watkins finished dead last in his Arizona GOP primary race
- Ron Watkins finished last of seven candidates vying for a GOP nomination for Congress in Arizona.
- Watkins is widely viewed as being instrumental to the creation of QAnon, an allegation he denies.
Ron Watkins, an influential figure in the QAnon conspiracy movement who last year announced he was seeking the GOP nomination for Arizona's 2nd congressional district, on Tuesday placed last among all Republican candidates on the ballot.
Eli Crane, the Republican candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump, won about 34% of the vote, according to data from The New York Times. Watkins placed behind Crane and five other candidates, earning less than 4% of the vote, according to the Times, which said 72% of results had been reported.
Many extremism researchers believe that Watkins was central to the creation of the far-right QAnon movement, along with help from his father Jim Watkins who founded the website 8kun (formerly 8chan), which hosts messages from the conspiracy's anonymous leader "Q." Central to the baseless conspiracy is the belief that Trump has a plan to stop a deep-state network of satanic pedophiles who secretly run the world, though Watkins failed to secure Trump's endorsement.
Watkins, who has repeatedly denied he is behind QAnon or that he is "Q," ran into numerous troubles during his failed campaign. After claiming in October that he would raise at least $1 million for his campaign, data compiled by the Federal Election Commission shows he received only around $160,000 in total contributions as of July 13. Watkins also personally loaned his campaign $95,000, according to the FEC data.
The FEC in March asked Watkins to clarify an additional $20,000 in campaign funds it said went unreported, which was about 40% of the campaign funds he had claimed to have raised at that point.
Watkins also struggled to gain an offline following and stumbled through campaign events, including at a GOP primary debate where he fumbled talking points. In one instance at the debate, the 35-year-old claimed that President Joe Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone pipeline led to Russia's invasion of Ukraine — a claim he then stated was a "mistake" after another candidate forcibly corrected him.
Watkins also in January showed up to a Scottsdale, Arizona school board meeting, Vice reported, where he accused teachers of "indoctrinating our children" with "racist Biden's racist critical race theory."
"Q" — the anonymous figure behind the conspiracy theory — stopped posting online for more than a year and abruptly returned to 8kun last month, raising questions about whether the new posts are being created by the same person or people who previously posted as Q, as Insider previously reported.
Watkins' failed candidacy is the latest indication that having an association with QAnon doesn't necessarily guarantee success at the ballot box, as The New York Times reported in July. Several QAnon-linked candidates have seen success, however, adding to the number of Republicans like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who have promoted the conspiracy theory.
Even as Watkins' campaign cratered, Republican candidate Mark Finchem won the GOP primary for Arizona's secretary of state. Finchem has pushed debunked claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, called COVID vaccines a "crime against humanity" and embraced QAnon conspiracy theories.
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