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A coalition of right-wing MAGA candidates, including multiple Trump-backed candidates, are seeking to take control of elections in states across the U.S.—and one says they’re formally working with a group of conspiracy theorists, as well as with a QAnon influencer who some in the conspiracy movement believe is John F. Kennedy Jr. in disguise.
The group consists of five GOP candidates running for the key election position of secretary of state in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Georgia, and California, as well as one Pennsylvania lawmaker who may run for governor, which in Pennsylvania appoints the secretary of state. According to one of the candidates, it also has support from wealthy conspiracy theorists Mike Lindell and Patrick Byrne.
The reported coalition is just the latest example of how extreme QAnon-inspired conspiracy theories about election fraud and vote-rigging have become pervasive in the Republican Party, and how those conspiracies are now driving this group to seek to take control of key election positions across the country ahead of the 2024 election.
The existence of the group, which doesn’t seem to have a name, was revealed by Nevada secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant at the “For God & Country: Patriot Double Down” conference that took place in Las Vegas over the weekend.
Marchant, a former Nevada state legislator who lost a hotly contested race for Congress in 2020, told the crowd that the genesis for the coalition began on November 4 last year, the day after he lost to Rep. Steven Hosford in the race for a House seat. Like Trump, Marchant claims the election was stolen from him. And so, in his words, he “got to work.”
“I got a suite in the Venetian hotel across the hall from the Trump attorneys and the Trump people that came in to start investigating the election fraud here in Nevada,” Marchant said Monday. “And guess who showed up at my suite? Juan O Savin.”
Savin is the alias for an anonymous QAnon influencer and author who until this weekend never showed his face in public and was best known because some QAnon followers believed he was JFK Jr. in disguise.
“We need to take back the secretaries of state offices around the country. So not only did they ask me to run, they asked me to put together a coalition,” Marchant claimed.
It is unclear how Marchant knew Savin, but “for the next three to five months, we worked on trying to expose the election, the fraudulent election here in Nevada and everywhere, actually.”
And on May 1, according to Marchant, the coalition held its inaugural meeting in Las Vegas. Marchant said he and Savin were joined by MyPillow CEO and renowned election fraud conspiracist Mike Lindell, and Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, who pushed Trump to declare martial law to stay in power at a White House meeting late in his presidency and has since spent millions of dollars investigating election fraud conspiracies. Marchant added that Jim Hoft, founder of the conspiracy website the Gateway Pundit, and his twin brother Joe, “Zoomed into” the inaugural meeting. Brian Kennedy, a senior fellow and former president of the right-wing think tank the Claremont Institute, also attended, according to Marchant.
“That was our inaugural meeting to start strategizing for the coalition. I can’t stress enough how important the secretary of state offices are. I think they are the most important elections in our country in 2022. And why is that? We control the election system,” Marchant said after recounting the meeting’s attendees. “In 2022, we’re going to take back our country.”
Marchant was light on details about exactly what form this “coalition” will take, not mentioning what legal structure it will have, or what its specific goals will be—past getting hard-line Trump acolytes into powerful positions to run the 2024 elections—or whether there will be serious money backing it. Marchant, Lindell, Byrne, Kennedy, and all the candidates Marchant said are involved didn’t reply to requests for comment. But both Lindell and Byrne have deep pockets and could fund a major effort to back these candidates.
The coalition already includes three candidates backed by former President Donald Trump.
One is Kristina Karamo, a GOP activist running for Michigan secretary of state who has Trump’s endorsement. She spoke immediately after Marchant at the same QAnon conference and thanked him for putting together the effort.
“I want to thank Jim Marchant for putting the coalition together. We owe him so much,” Karamo said before calling the incumbent, Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, “evil” and claiming there was widespread voting fraud in Michigan, despite piles of evidence to the contrary.
Also in the coalition, according to Marchant, is Rep. Jody Hice, a sitting congressman from Georgia. Hice is the strong favorite to win the GOP nomination for secretary of state—Trump has endorsed him and is seeking payback against Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for refusing his attempts to flip his loss. He may have the edge in the general election too; Georgia is a GOP-leaning swing state, and 2022 will be a tough election environment for Democrats.
However several days after this article was published, Hice’s campaign office responded by denying he was involved with the group.
“Congressman Hice is not part of a coalition and no individual or group—minus concerned voters from Georgia—asked him to run for Secretary of State,” Kait Branson, a spokesperson for HIce’s campaign told VICE News. “The decision to run was prayerfully made by Jody and Dee Dee [Hice’s wife] because they believe renewing integrity in our elections is critical.”
Mark Finchem, a sitting Arizona state lawmaker, also has Trump's endorsement for the secretary of state position, and likely starts off with the edge in a crowded primary field, though even he's controversial by the standards of this crowd.
Another member of the coalition is Pennsylvania lawmaker Doug Mastriano, who’s been pushing hard for an Arizona-style recount in his own state.
Mastriano, who has discussed election issues with Trump, is eyeing a run for governor, and if he were to win, he’d have the power to appoint the secretary of state in Pennsylvania.
Mastriano hasn't officially jumped into the race—he's said he's looking for a sign from God that he'll raise enough money—but has previously said that Trump asked him to run for governor, a sign the former president is likely to endorse if Mastriano gets in. Former Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta, a strong Trump backer who lost a 2018 run for Senate, is currently the front-runner in that race.
Marchant doesn’t have Trump’s endorsement—yet—and faces a crowded field for the GOP nomination, including former Las Vegas news anchor Gerard Ramalho, former judge Richard Scotti, and Sparks Councilman Kristopher Dahir. The general election could be a tight one in the swing state, where Republicans usually do quite well in the midterms. Democratic attorney Cisco Aguilar, a onetime staffer for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is the early favorite to be the Democratic nominee.
The final member of the coalition is California’s Rachel Hamm—but Republicans have almost zero chance of winning that race in the deep-blue state.
Marchant said he’s close to getting another candidate in Colorado to sign up for the coalition, but he didn’t want to name them yet.
Karamo, Hamm, and Finchem all appeared alongside Marchant at the QAnon conference on a panel discussing their plans for undermining election integrity.
During the panel discussion Monday, Marchant laid out the coalition’s priorities should they get any of their candidates elected. These include advocating for voter ID laws, getting rid of Dominion voting machines, limiting voting to a single day, eradicating all mail-in ballots, “cleaning up” voter rolls, and allowing the public to come in and watch vote counting.
Another aspect of their plan is to introduce what Marchant called “anti-counterfeitable” ballots. In fact, the coalition members visited a company in Texas recently that Marchant said makes paper that’s difficult to tamper with.
Those measures include the use of hologram labels and are made of proprietary material that can only be read by special machines.
“No more ballots from China,” Marchant told the crowd, winking at a QAnon conspiracy theory that boxes stuffed with ballots from Asia were used to swing the election in Maricopa County in favor of President Joe Biden.
QAnon influencers have been spreading election fraud conspiracies long before Trump and his allies began boosting them in the wake of their 2020 election loss. But in the months since the election, as Trump has refused to accept defeat, he has pushed those conspiracies into the mainstream.
It is unclear how Savin came into contact with Marchant, but as one QAnon researcher put it on Twitter: “I cannot emphasize enough how much you'd have to be Q-pilled to know anything about Juan O Savin. Prior to this event, Juan had never even broadcast his face. You'd HAVE to be deep into the movement to see him as a famous person.”
Marchant, Finchem, Mastriano, Hice, Hamm, and Karamo all failed to respond to VICE News’ requests for more information about the coalition and its formation.
Until this weekend, Savin was only known by those deeply read into the QAnon world, and he has protected his identity by never appearing on camera during podcasts and other interviews, preferring to show only his cowboy boots.
Savin’s real name is not widely known, but a biography on the book-catalog website Goodreads lists a book written by Savin with the following blurb:
“This book is a four-chapter transcript of speeches by Wayne Willott, using his nom de plume Juan O Savin. Wayne is a major player in the Conspiracy movement having established for himself excellent credibility as a QAnon.”
Goodreads did not immediately respond to VICE News’ question about who wrote the blurb.
Last weekend Savin stepped into the spotlight, appearing on stage for the first time, though he continued to use only his alias.
During several appearances on stage, Savin spouted his typical mixture of conspiracies about everything from COVID-19 to the Oklahoma City bombing. At one point he showed off a dress he claims was worn by Melania Trump when the former first lady departed the White House for the last time.
Savin claimed the patterned dress actually included a message hidden in “the language of semaphore.”
Another notable aspect of Savin’s mythos within the QAnon community is that many people believe he’s actually John F. Kennedy Jr. in disguise. Savin has never disabused people of this in any public statement, and during the weekend, many QAnon supporters once again compared the pair.
UPDATED Oct. 29, 2021, 8:15 a.m.: Comment added from Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, who responded two days after this article was published.