Ron Watkins is a month into his campaign for a Congressional seat, and it’s not going so great. He’s struggling to get the media attention he needs, he has no campaign website, he’s steadily losing followers on Telegram, and his opponents have a huge head start on fundraising.
When Watkins, the QAnon facilitator-turned-MAGA influencer, announced he was running for Congress in Arizona last month, he told VICE News he was pretty confident about his chances.
“Mark my words: I am going to raise at least a million dollars and I'm going to win so that the people have a real voice in Washington, D.C.,” Watkins said.
But it turns out that his Democratic opponent had already reached the $1 million mark before Watkins had even announced his candidacy, according to filings published by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Incumbent Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran had already raised $1,159,515.71 by the end of September, according to his latest financial report filed with the FEC.
Watkins, who helped QAnon move from a fringe online conspiracy to a mainstream movement that has infected Republican Party orthodoxy, does not have to file his first quarterly financial report, until Jan. 8 under FEC rules.
Since announcing his candidacy, Watkins has focused most of his energy on attacking O’Halleran, calling him the “dirtiest Democrat in the DC swamp” and even giving him the Trumpesque nickname of “Tom O’Hooligan.”
But Watkins may be getting ahead of himself somewhat, given that he first has to win the Republican Party primary that is slated for August 2 next year.
Of the three Republicans currently listed as challenging Watkins for that nomination, sitting Arizona State Rep. Walter Blackman has raised $475,481.07, former Navy Seal and Tucson businessman Eli Crane has raised $404,396.30, and John Moore, the current mayor of Williams, AZ, has raised $30,497.88. Watkins did not immediately respond to VICE News questions about how much money he has raised.
Watkins does not have a campaign website, preferring to use his highly popular Telegram channel, where he has hundreds of thousands of followers, to push talking points and grievances about his opponents.
As well as talking about his Congressional campaign, Watkins continues to use his channel to push a wide variety of conspiracy theories including QAnon, 2020 election fraud lies, and anti-vaccine narratives.
But one open-source researcher who has been tracking Watkins’ Telegram channel following, has highlighted that the number of people subscribed to his channels is falling.
According to the data, Watkins’ subscriber base has been steadily declining in recent weeks, suggesting that his sway over his conspiracy-minded followers may be waning.
While Watkins garnered some media attention when he announced his campaign, he has struggled to get any media outlets to take him seriously. And, in a message posted on the Telegram channel, he asked his followers late last month: “Do you have a podcast? Email me and i'll consider joining your show if my schedule permits.”
Of course, Watkins may have other things on his mind at this time, after the FBI this week raided the home of the Colorado GOP election official accused of leaking sensitive voter information to him earlier this year.
Correction: A previous version of this story reported that Watkins' campaign has raised $0. He has not reported his fundraising total for the first quarter of his campaign, because the deadline for reporting has not yet passed. We regret the error.
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