QAnon conspiracy theory is on the ballot in some states in November

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PHOENIX (AP) – Candidates engaged in the QAnon conspiracy theory are running for seats in state legislatures this year, breathing more oxygen into a once obscure conspiracy movement that has gained prominence since the adherents won the Republican Congressional primaries this year.

Some of the legislative candidates have repeatedly shared QAnon memes and interacted extensively with social media accounts promoting the conspiracy – which centers on the baseless belief that President Donald Trump is waging a covert campaign against enemies of “The deep state” and a child sex trafficking network. Others have acted in ways that make it unclear whether they believe in the theory or may just flirt with the ideas for attention.

They make up only a tiny fraction of the thousands of state legislative candidates on the ballot in November and many are longshots, but several, notably in Arizona, Minnesota and Wisconsin, are running in competitive districts.

Among those who have engaged in QAnon’s social media posts is Dave Armstrong, a Republican candidate for the Wisconsin assembly. He was invited to run for the seat by the incumbent, another Republican.

As the overlap between support for President Donald Trump and adherence to the “QAnon” conspiracy theory grew, Trump was called upon to disown it, as did Vice President Mike Pence and rival Presidential President of Trump, Joe Biden. He categorically refused. The FBI has flagged QAnon as a domestic terrorism threat.

Associated press

Although he does not describe himself as a QAnon adherent, he liked and passed on videos made by QAnon contributors. Armstrong told The Associated Press he found key aspects of the plot believable, but not all.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever know the answer to that, and neither can we prove it,” he said. “The most important thing with QAnon is that you can’t prove anything.”

John Ellenson, Armstrong’s Democratic opponent for the seat, said it would be “dangerous” to elect Armstrong because he “is playing in conspiracies and not in the truth.”

Conspiracy theory has crept into the mainstream political arena. It gained more attention after Marjorie Taylor Greene won the Republican primary for a United States House seat in a heavily GOP district of Georgia last month. Greene was invited to the White House for Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

Trump said he knew little about the movement but spoke favorably of his supporters. Vice President Mike Pence rejected it. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s rival on November 3, called it mortifying and dangerous last week.

While races for congressional seats often generate more publicity, state legislative positions serve as a stepping stone to higher positions, and their incumbents wield significant power to affect daily life – determining state policies in matters education, police, health care, criminal justice and other matters.

As with many conspiracy theories, it’s not always clear how much the contestants believe in it. Through reporters from the AP, the nonprofit research group Media Matters for America, and Democratic groups involved in state legislative elections, the news co-op identified about two dozen candidates in over d ‘a dozen states that have expressed some support or interest in QAnon. This number is only the roughest estimate.

Some who had shared posts referring to the plot sought to put some distance between themselves and the movement when contacted by the PA. Many simply did not respond to requests for comment – perhaps not surprising given the movement proclaims mainstream media to be involved in the conspiracy.

Among those was Suzanne Sharer, a Republican legislative candidate for the Phoenix area who has posted QAnon videos and messages more than a dozen times in recent months. She is running in a suburban neighborhood that was once solidly Republican but has now become Democrat.

In April, she wrote: “Q has been silent. Is it 10 days of darkness?

Julie Buria, a Republican running in a northern Minnesota legislative district that Trump won by nearly 3 percentage points in 2016, retweeted at least four posts in April and May that appeared to support QAnon.

In one, she wrote: “Link to the new Q drop” with a link to a QAnon site. The tweet also used several hashtags common to conspiracy followers. But in an interview, Buria insisted that she didn’t know QAnon very well.

“Did I watch him? Yes. Do I believe all this? No, I’m not sure what to think of all of this, ”she said.

Whether or not candidates believe in QAnon, they lend legitimacy to ideas by sharing them, said Jenny Guzman, legislative communications coordinator for Progress Arizona, a liberal group that has worked to draw attention to candidates sharing them. conspiracy theories.

“I think Republicans know very clearly what they are doing when they step up and spread disinformation and conspiracy theories,” Guzman said. “But when they get caught they try to play the ignorant because they just don’t want to be held accountable for their actions.”

Most of the legislative candidates identified by the PA as having a history of posting on QAnon are Republicans, although some are independent or third party candidates.

Some do not hesitate to take an interest in the movement.

On her Twitter account, Melissa Moore included a photo of Earth inside the letter Q with the slogan “The world is about to change,” which is common among followers of the movement. She also used several hashtags associated with Q in her tweets. A delegate to the Republican National Convention, she presents herself in a Democratic-oriented neighborhood in the suburbs of Minneapolis.

“I like to follow him,” Moore said. “It’s an exciting movement that opens our minds to different possibilities of what’s going on, what’s really going on in our world today.”

In Nevada, Independent State Assembly candidate John Cardiff Gerhardt is also openly embracing the movement.

He said he suspected government officials, the mainstream media and the criminal justice system of plotting to cover human trafficking even before he became familiar with QAnon.

“Hiding behind the curtain where everything seems to be going well, there are actually executives, CEOs, pop stars and the best politicians, including the last few presidents before Donald Trump,” said Gerhardt, which runs in a strongly Democratic district in the East. Las Vegas.

Gerhardt said his main goal was to replace the state constitution. A draft proposal incorporates elements of the plot, including official recognition that a “Cabal” is attempting to “control and corrupt the state of Nevada.”

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