In case there was any questions about Jo Rae Perkins’ devotion to the cultish QAnon conspiracy theory universe—raised, no doubt, by her campaign statement last week after she won the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate race in Oregon—she answered them fulsomely the next day in interviews.
"My campaign is gonna kill me [...] How do I say this? Some people think that I follow Q like I follow Jesus," Perkins told ABC News on Friday. "Q is the information and I stand with the information resource."
When last Tuesday’s vote totals rolled in, Perkins—who had run for office several times previously and attracted little support—easily outpaced the rest of the Republican field for the opportunity to run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, pulling in 49.3% of the GOP vote. Her next closest competitor, Paul Romero, had 30.3%.
The outcome made Perkins the first official Republican QAnon nominee for the U.S. Senate. At first her campaign appeared to back away from her connections to the conspiracist cult, issuing an “official statement” from Perkins that seemingly denied her involvement.
“I was not endorsing Q/Anon, but rather stating that I appreciate the fact that there is still free speech in this country that allows for voices—including whistleblowers from both sides of the aisle—that may, or may not, bring to light issues Americans need to be aware of,” Perkins said in the written statement issued Wednesday.
“I do not believe everything from Q/Anon and would never describe myself as a follower, but I also do not believe in infringing upon any outlet’s right to discuss news or topics,” the statement added.
Two days later, she blew up the denial in her interview with ABC. “I scanned it and said, yeah, it looks good to me and out it went. And then I saw it afterwards and I am like, literally was in tears, literally physically in tears because I'm so blown away. Because I went, crap, that’s not me. And I don't back down,” she said.
“I'm not backpedaling and I'm frustrated. I feel like I'm having to backpedal and that's like torn me up because that's not me,” she added.
Merkley’s campaign declined to comment.
Perkins’ involvement in Republican Party politics in Oregon dates back over a decade to her service as chair of the Linn County GOP from January 2009 to November 2012. Perkins told Right Wing Watch she is a delegate for Linn County GOP Central Committee to the State Central Committee.
Perkins was a primary candidate for Oregon’s District 4 congressional races in 2014, 2016, and 2018. She told Right Wing Watch that she had served on state-level GOP committees “pre-Q,” and that “post-Q,” she had shared a plank for the state GOP’s platform convention last year. She also said that party officials had never questioned her about her beliefs in QAnon.
Perkins told The New York Times that she believes Trump is involved in the Q effort, likely posting online under the pseudonym “Q+.” She also insisted that it was “a mathematical impossibility” that Q might not be real; she also hedged that bet.
“It’s always a possibility that Q is fake,” Perkins said. “But I do not believe at this point in time, based on everything that I know, that Q is fake.”
Perkins also has eagerly adopted the extremist “constitutionalist” beliefs promulgated by the “Patriot” contingent that led the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, including the claim that federal agencies are not permitted to own public lands.
“I don’t need the U.S. Forest Service on our land,” Perkins told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “It is unconstitutional.”
Republican Party officials, both in Oregon and at the national level, were subdued in welcoming Perkins as the nominee. "By virtue of being the GOP nominee, this is what we do—support them in winning the general election,” Oregon Republican officials said in a released statement.
Similarly, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chose not to express support for Perkins, instead responding with a list of unrelated allegations against various Democratic Senate candidates before concluding, “and THIS is what ABC News is focused on.”
Perkins told ABC News that despite the slow start for GOP support for her candidacy, she doesn’t foresee any future issues since she is friends with Oregon Republican Party Chairman Bill Currier. Currier did not reply to a request for comment.
While GOP officials have been reluctant to embrace QAnon candidates, Donald Trump has not. He has already endorsed a QAnon-loving Republican candidate for state treasurer in North Dakota.
Last August, the FBI warned that QAnon conspiracy theories were likely to pose a risk of inspiring domestic terrorism. Since then, a number of terrorism incidents—including an attempt to ram the USNS Mercy in Los Angeles with a locomotive—inspired by QAnon theories have resulted in arrests.