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QAnon figure Ron Watkins will not win the 2022 primary in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. The former 8kun administrator’s run has been puzzling to many. Is he grifting? Is he trolling? A bit of both? If Watkins is attempting to pull off a grift or secure a seat in D.C., then he’s been failing miserably.
Ever since he filed his statement of interest on October 17th (a double nod to the Q community) Watkins has struggled to run a successful campaign. Last month, he received a notice from the Federal Elections Commission for his failure to properly report his campaign spending. His FEC filings also showed a loss in received crypto donations, a $95,000 loan to himself, and a donation from his dad and 8kun operator Jim Watkins. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Ron’s current cash-on-hand came from his own loan with only 10 other Arizona addresses donating to him this year and three last year.
Throughout his brief residence in Arizona, Watkins has barely spent time in the rural northern district. Instead he’s been peddling Sovereign Citizen nonsense at a Scottsdale school board meeting nowhere near his district or posing for photos on the complete opposite side of the state while holding recently purchased prop guns at the AZ-MX border wall with members of the racist, conspiratorial militia Veterans on Patrol (VOP). As LCRW previously reported, Watkins was spending time with the racist vigilantes who patrol near the Sasabe port-of-entry. When talks of the U.S. variation of the Canadian “trucker convoy,” were still in the planning stages, Watkins and VOP were calling for a siege on the southern border. The U.S. trucker convoy failed to materialize a weeks-long occupation similar to the Ottawa protests, however a QAnon encampment was recently set up at the Sasabe port-of-entry, hearing the call of VOP and Watkins.
Despite the stumbles, Watkins managed to gather the 1,400 signatures he required to qualify for the 2022 ballot joined two other Arizona Republican CD-2 candidates for his first official political debate. To put it simply, it did not go well.
On April 27 the Arizona Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) hosted the first debate between three out of seven of the candidates —Andy Yates, current state representative Walt Blackman, and Watkins. Topics ranged from to the invasion of Ukraine to abortion and Watkins managed to show his ignorance on every subject that crossed the stage. His lack of understanding on the most basic of government functions left Rep. Blackman visibly irritated throughout.
“That’s School of Rock to me,” Blackman scolded Watkins at one point.
Opening statements started with Watkins, who was introduced as a “computer scientist.” A more appropriate title would have read “site administrator to an image board that regularly hosted child porn, neo-nazis, and the QAnon conspiracy.” Watkins began his night with an extremely awkward, yet mostly-standard conservative introduction. Trading his cowboy cosplay for a suit, he characterized himself as a political outsider, praised the border wall, and attacked abortion rights.
Unfortunately for Watkins, once the debate portion started, he was facing an actual political opponent who had the ability to call his bullshit out in real time. It’s not as easy to spew the ramblings of CodeMonkeyZ on live TV in a debate setting. The likely Republican nominee, Blackman, showed little patience for Watkins and repeatedly expressed frustration towards his answers. Watkins tried to brag about his appearance on One America News Network and getting retweeted by Donald Trump only to get ridiculed by Blackman. Watkins later tried to claim halting of the construction on the KeyStone Pipeline caused the Russian invasion of Ukraine resulting in another forceful response from Blackman. Unable to construct a comeback quick enough, Watkins was embarrassingly left to concede to his opponent, turning to the moderator and simply saying “he’s right.”
While Arizona won’t be stuck with “Q” as their candidate, Blackman is most anticipated to win the nomination against democrat incumbent Tom O’Halleran. With recent redistricting, the seat is now vulnerable and leaning red, increasing the likelihood the sitting lawmaker will get a promotion to D.C. The absurdity of Watkins’ bid for Congress is nothing compared to the grim reality of Blackman’s ascension in politics. During the debate, Blackman was asked about his history of proposing anti-abortion legislation that would charge those seeking abortion care and their doctors with homicide. He still supports the idea and clarifies his belief that all abortions should be criminalized. In Blackman’s hypothetical, receiving or performing an abortion could result in a life sentence or the death penalty. For Yates, this level of regulation is too far but Watkins agreed with Blackman’s anti-abortion stance.
“We need to send all abortion cases in front of a judge and a jury,” Watkins answered.
“We need to investigate all abortions.”
The desire to suppress voters was consistent across all three candidates. Both Watkins and Blackman spread the usual, discredited accusations of voter fraud and believe the 2020 election was illegally stolen. Unlike his opponents, Yates does not believe the election was stolen but still expressed support for the Arizona Republican Party passing more voter suppressing bills. Candidates were also in agreement when asked if they would have voted for COVID relief funds, which they answered “no.”
For all the talk about what a “fringe” candidate Watkins is, when it came down to the topics, his opinions on the subjects like abortion and voter suppression were near indistinguishable from the favored Republican candidate. Also, Watkins is only one of dozens of Q-believers and influencers making a bid for electoral politics in 2022. Unsurprisingly, with Arizona having the most appearing on the ballot so far. The man widely considered to be Q running for office is absurd, but it’s no more absurd than our current era of American politics when QAnon is already absorbed into the Republican mainstream. It’s no more absurd than the “pro-life” candidates advocating for the death penalty against those who receive or perform an abortion.
Towards the end of the debate, the moderator began focusing the conversation around the January 6 insurrection and QAnon’s involvement. Oddly enough, in this particular setting, all the candidates agreed that there should be prosecutions relating to the insurrection. Watkins agreed they were “criminals” and Blackman, who recently praised the Proud Boys at a “Justice for Jan. 6th” anniversary rally, now characterized J6 rioters as “domestic enemies.”
After a few comments related to January 6th, the moderator turned directly to Watkins and asked, “Some people say that a lot of this was stoked by QAnon. What is your relationship to QAnon?”
“I have no relationship with QAnon,” he quickly responded. “None at all.”
The moderator continued to dig and asked about 8kun hosting Q, which Watkins brushes off by saying he simply ran a “free speech website” and Q just happened to post there. When asked, Watkins also said he felt no responsibility for misinformation that led to January 6th.
But Watkins and QAnon did help fuel January 6. The ADL Center on Extremism identified QAnon loyalists as one of the most common groups charged for their participation in the insurrection. Some of the most recognizable faces leading the front were supporters of the conspiracy movement including Douglas Jensen, who wore a shirt with a huge Q, and Jacob Chansley aka the “Q Shaman.” Many believers thought the day was the arrival of “the Storm,” the long-awaited, Q-prophesied day of reckoning and purging of their enemies. Even if Watkins is taken at his word and he isn’t Q, he was an instrumental tool in poisoning their minds with QAnon conspiracies as the 8kun site administrator. The Watkins father-son duo hosted Q just like they hosted the child pornography and the manifestos of the nazi mass murderers responsible for the 2019 Christchurch, Poway, and El Paso massacres. On Twitter, Watkins was also spreading conspiracies about the 2020 election on his influential personal account leading up to Jan. 6. On the morning of the insurrection, he accused Mike Pence of orchestrating a coup against Trump and linked to an article calling for him to be arrested for treason.
The final question was about climate change—a topic that severely affects Congressional District 2. CD2 faces threats of drought and wildfires. The district also contains the under-resourced Navajo Nation. It is the poorest county in the state. None of the candidates gave an adequate response to the communities they seek to serve, but Watkins disregarded the question entirely.
“Well the Democrats just use it to tax us, so I think we should not even talk about climate change. Not even address it. We should just get rid of the entire idea,” Ron said.
“Alright, that’s an interesting way to end a debate.”