Back in January, when she was still just an insurance agent in Albany, Oregon, Jo Rae Perkins — as an outspoken adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory — assessed her chances of winning the Republican nomination for Senate the way, well, an insurance agent would.
“It’s a very, highly calculated risk that I’m taking. Most people play it a lot safer than I do,” Perkins told Right Wing Watch back in January. “It’s either pure genius or pure insanity. It’s one of the two. The voters are going to have to be the ones that make that decision.”
On Wednesday, Republican voters in Oregon weighed in and, overwhelmingly, they backed the promoter of a conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump is secretly rooting out a cabal of child sex traffickers who hold sway in the highest echelons of the federal government. Perkins received support from roughly half of Republican primary voters in the four-way race, dispatching her nearest rival by almost 20 percentage points.
She now will face Sen. Jeff Merkley in the general election this fall. The race is Merkley’s first reelection bid; he defeated the two-term Republican Senator Gordon Smith in 2009. Merkley is favored to win — but then again, so was Hillary Clinton.
Perkins celebrated her victory in a video in which she recited a QAnon slogan. “Where we go one, we go all,” she said in a since-deleted video, holding up a WWG1WGA sticker. “I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. And together, we can save our republic.”
Perkins is the seventh Republican congressional candidate who openly supports QAnon, according to a tally by Vox.
In an interview with The New York Times shortly after her victory, she credited backing from QAnon supporters around the state and the country for helping her win. “We are seeing more and more people getting emboldened as we see more and more information get out there,” she told the paper. “And as people put together more and more pieces of the puzzle, they can see, yeah, this is real.”
On Thursday, the day after the interview was published, Perkins posted a statement to Twitter denying that she endorsed the conspiracy that she has repeatedly promoted throughout her primary. “I’m disheartened that less than 24 hours after my win, my words were already being spun through the fake news machine and taken out of context. 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 continued: “To be very clear, 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.… My slogan, For One Oregon, has nothing to do with conspiracy theories or media bias, but rather, has long been my commitment to being a civil servant for all of Oregon, not just some as has been the case under Jeff Merkley’s tenure.”