- At least 36 QAnon-supporting candidates intend to run for Congress in 2022, Media Matters said.
- Some of the candidates are diehard QAnon fans, while others signal their support subtly.
- Experts told Insider that this shows how QAnon has evolved into a major political force.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In July 2020, JR Majewski made national headlines after transforming his 19,000-square-foot lawn into a massive Trump re-election banner. When the Air Force veteran from Ohio appeared in a television interview with Fox News, he was wearing a QAnon T-shirt.
Several months later, as Congress met to certify President Joe Biden’s election win, Majewski was among the thousands of Trump supporters who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington DC, later admitting to breaching police barricades and walking up to the base of the Capitol building.
Majewski is now trying to return to the Capitol, but this time as a congressman representing the 9th district of Ohio, a seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Marcy Kapur.
Since he was first spotted wearing the “Q” T-shirt, Majewski has made several more references to the conspiracy theory, posting QAnon images and hashtags on his social media channel, and live streaming videos with the well-known QAnon influencer RedPill79.
Majewski is one of many congressional candidates running in the 2022 midterm elections who have given credence to QAnon, which the FBI described as a far-right group with “anti-government, identity-based and fringe political conspiracy theories,” The Washington Post reported.
A Media Matters investigation published earlier this month revealed that 36 candidates in 17 states have either openly endorsed QAnon, made subtle references to, or distanced themselves from the conspiracy theory despite repeatedly displaying their support on social media or in video interviews.
Thirty-three of the candidates are running as Republicans while two are independents and one is still deciding whether to run as a Republican or an independent, the investigation found. The state with the most QAnon-believing candidates is Florida with nine candidates, followed by California which has six candidates, although these numbers are still subject to change.
The diehard QAnon supporters
In this cohort is also Reba Sherill, a health and wellness advocate who in 2020 unsuccessfully ran in Florida’s 21st congressional district – home to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. She is running again as a Republican candidate for the US Senate in the midterms.
As a big Trump fan, Sherrill used to gather with other supporters on a bridge near Mar-A-Lago to wave in homage at the former president’s motorcade whenever he was in town, The Washington Post reported.
She is an ardent QAnon believer and has made the conspiracy theory central to her largely self-funded campaign.
The self-described “Q patriot” focuses her campaign on child trafficking, matching with QAnon’s false belief that Trump is fighting a “deep state” cabal of human traffickers in the United States, Yahoo News reported.
Sherrill has also referred to the more extreme adrenochrome theory – the belief that Democratic elites harvest the drug from children by torturing them and drinking their blood – in a now-deleted post on her website.
The Flordia native told Yahoo News that the “mainstream media tries to paint people who talk about human trafficking and child sex trafficking as being some kind of crazy lunatics.”
“This is not a conspiracy, this is reality,” she insisted. “It’s not some fictitious thing.”
Another congressional candidate who believes in the human trafficking theory is Omar Navarro, a convicted stalker running for California’s 43rd congressional district.
Navarro, who also featured in HBO’s “Q: Into the Storm” documentary series, is one of the more recognizable faces of the QAnon world.
The California native, who last year spent six months in jail after pleading guilty to a stalking charge, told Insider in an interview that he believes in “some things” that “Q” says, including the human trafficking trope.
“I do believe that there’s human trafficking going on right now. I do believe that Hollywood has participated in some of this with pedophilia on and it’s something obviously we can’t ignore,” he said.
Navarro, who has gone viral multiple times on Twitter for his far-right and homophobic views, has previously pushed the debunked Pizzagate theory. He told Insider: “I feel like there are certain things going on. There’s something shady in that pizza shop.”
The Californian also defended using the popular QAnon slogan WWG1WGA (“Where we go one, we go all”) in a tweet posted on October 3, 2020, saying he ended up deleting it because he didn’t want Twitter to ban him.
“I always have to worry about my free speech and what I say on Twitter,” he said.
-Alex Kaplan (@AlKapDC) January 7, 2020
The fear of being removed from social media platforms is not holding back QAnon fan Jo Rae Perkins, who is running for the Senate in Oregon, where she unsuccessfully ran in 2020.
Perkins, who discovered QAnon messaging boards in 2017 and describes them as a “source of information.” She has also posted a video of herself taking a “digital soldier oath” in front of a WWG1WGA sticker, CNN reported.
The camouflage candidates
Around eight candidates have consistently and blatantly pushed elements of the QAnon conspiracy theory in the past but have, in some way, tried to distance themselves from it. These include Josh Barnett, Bobby Piton, Jon McGreevey, and Billy Prempeh.
Most famously, firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman Congressperson who received the support of Former President Donald Trump after her primary runoff victory in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, is one of these candidates.
In the past, Greene has proliferated bizarre fantasies that are on-brand with the QAnon conspiracy theory.
She has accused Hillary Clinton of sexually assaulting a child before slicing off her face and wearing it as a mask. She once suggested that the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been replaced by a body double years ago, and has said that California wildfires might have been started by space lasers.
Greene pushed these ideas so fervently that she became a “correspondent” for a conspiracy news website between 2017 and 2018, NBC News reported. In one of her posts for the now-defunct “American Truth Seekers” website, the controversial lawmaker called Q a “patriot.”
She also told her social media followers that Q “is worth listening to” in a now-deleted video from 2017.
-Travis View (@travis_view) June 6, 2020
But while Greene once proudly broadcast some of QAnon’s wildest ideas, she has since tried to publicly distance herself from the conspiracy theory.
In August 2020, Greene said that QAnon no longer represented her current position. “No, I don’t [consider myself a QAnon candidate]. I think that’s been the media’s characterization of me,” she told Fox News.
But that didn’t stop Twitter from temporarily locking her account in January 2021 when it culled QAnon accounts after the deadly Capitol riot.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, a contemporary of Greene and a rising star in the GOP, has also tried to walk back her support of the conspiracy theory she had formerly championed.
Known to some as the “QAnon Congresswoman,” Boebert has said that she is “very familiar” with QAnon and has praised the conspiracy theory. “Everything that I’ve heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values,” she said during an appearance on QAnon web show SteelTruth in May 2020.
But after winning the Republican nomination for Colorado’s 3rd District, she told Fox 31 News that she’s “not a follower.” She did not, however, disavow a central tenet of the QAnon ideology – that the “deep state” is actively working against Trump. “I believe there are people working in the administration that at least appear to be actively undermining President Trump,” she said in 2020.
Publicly disavowing QAnon whilst continuing to advocate for some of the conspiracy theory’s nonsensical beliefs is an oft-used “camouflage” tactic by the far-right, Media Matters president Angela Carusone told Insider.
Some candidates might be doing so to appear more palatable to a wider audience and to avoid “political blowback” while maintaining their base of QAnon donors, he said.
“When candidates walk back their QAnon commitment, I think you have to view that with real skepticism,” Carusone advised. “They do things in a careful and concerted way.”
QAnon is a political tool to raise money and attract voters
While some candidates publicly disavow QAnon in a bid to appeal to a more mainstream audience, others subtly signal their support for it as a means to bring conspiracy theorists into the fold, to donate and vote for them.
“Many don’t even mention Q directly,” Jack Bratich, an associate professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, told Insider. “It’s become a kind of background story for adherents, who can signal to each other that they are part of this shadowy movement.”
Insider identified around a dozen candidates who have expressed their support for QAnon in less than explicit ways, via retweets, subtle nods to slogans, and the use of specific hashtags. These include Steve Von Loor, Tricia Flanagan, Sam Peters, and Anthony Sabatini.
Several candidates included the hashtag #WWG1WGA in their tweets. Others included the letter “Q” in response to posts from QAnon-affiliated accounts.
“I’m certain that there are some of these individuals that don’t actually care or believe in it, but they see it as an opportunity,” Carusone said.
“I think there are some candidates who are certainly just being political,” Carusone went on. “They’re crassly seeing a potential political donor base or power base.”
QAnon is ‘on the rise’ in congressional politics
It’s clear that the influence of QAnon in congressional politics is “on the rise,” Carusone said. “And they’re aggressively moving to take over parts of the Republican party, local committees, school boards, local races too.”
Bratich said it shows how deeply QAnon has “settled” into the Republican party. “As a movement, it has expanded to try and take over the party,” he said. “It’s not central to the GOP but it’s no longer a marginal component either.”
QAnon is now a major force in American politics, Carusone agreed. “And, basically, I think we’re kind of screwed.”
Here is a full list of all 36 QAnon supporters who are running for Congress in 2022.
- Josh Barnett, Arizona
- Daniel Wood, Arizona
- Jamie Byers, California
- Mike Cargile, California
- Ignacio Cruz, California
- Peter Liu, California
- Omar Navarro, California
- Buzz Patterson, California
- Lauren Boebert, Colorado
- Darren Aquino, Florida
- Vic DeGrammont, Florida
- Christine Quinn, Florida
- Anthony Sabatini, Florida
- Christine Scott, Florida
- Reba Sherrill, Florida
- Lavern Spicer, Florida
- Darlene Swaffar, Florida
- MTG, Georgia
- Bobby Piton, Illinois
- Philanise White, Illinois
- Jon McGreevey, Maryland
- Danielle Stella, Minnesota
- Sam Peters, Nevada
- Mindy Robinson, Nevada
- Tricia Flanagan, New Jersey
- Billy Prempeh, New Jersey
- Antoine Tucker, New York
- Steve Von Loor, North Carolina
- JR Majewski, Ohio
- Mark Pukita, Ohio
- Joe Rae Perkins, Oregon
- Bobby Jeffries, Pennsylvania
- Robert Lancia, Rhode Island
- Mayra Flores, Texas
- Jonny Teague, Texas