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When QAnon emerged on 4chan two years ago, the bizarre conspiracy stayed confined to a small group of die-hard Trump defenders.
But now, at least two Republican candidates running for federal office have proudly flaunted their belief in QAnon’s eponymous leader “Q,” a sign that the fringe theory has ballooned. Researchers estimate that adherents number in the tens of thousands. They believe, among other tenets, that liberal elites are running a global pedophilia network, and that Trump is the only one who can save the country from the depravity.
One of the aspiring QAnon candidates is Danielle Stella, a special education teacher in Minneapolis, who’s running to unseat Democratic congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar. The other candidate is Matthew Lusk, a bookseller in Florida, who announced his campaign for the Sunshine State’s 5th Congressional District in March. Both Stella and Lusk have integrated QAnon into their campaign strategies.
Researcher Travis View, who has a podcast dedicated to QAnon, noticed that Stella responded to adherents of the conspiracy on Twitter with its slogan “#WWG1WGA” which stands for, “Where we go one, we go all.” A spokesperson for Stella’s campaign told Right Wing Watch that she “stands 100% behind the principles of patriotism, unity/inclusiveness (WWG1WGA!) and love for country that QAnon promotes.”
One of Stella’s former campaign staffers later told the Daily Beast that she’s feigning a belief in QAnon to drum up support in those circles. “She tries to portray herself as she supports it, but she doesn’t even understand it,” the staffer told the Beast.
Lusk, meanwhile, lists “Q” on his campaign website as one of the 51 issues he’s concerned with. He doesn’t expand very far on what, exactly, Q as a campaign issue means: The point links to a page that has a large Q on it, and the words “who is.”
Lusk told the Daily Beast that he believes QAnon is “legitimate” and argued that the conspiracy had a “very articulate screening of past events, a very articulate screening of present conditions, and a somewhat prophetic divination of where the political and geopolitical ball will be bouncing next.”
Since announcing, Lusk has raised more than $2,000 for his campaign, which has come entirely out of his own pocket.
Lusk and Stella both face steep uphill battles to victory. Rep. Omar won of Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in 2018 with an overwhelming majority, at 78% , of the vote. Stella will also have to duke it out in the primaries against another political newcomer, moderate Republican Brent Whaley.
Lusk, who’s running to unseat Democratic Rep. Al Lawson, is currently the only Republican running in a district that’d been solidly Democrat since 2013.
QAnon has also crept offline and into the real world in other ways. Lawyers argued this week that a New York crime boss was murdered by a QAnon adherent, who believed the gangster was part of the “Deep State” against Trump.
A prominent conservative politician in Canada also previously shared YouTube videos promoting QAnon. And last December, an outgoing city council member in California said “God Bless Q” during her farewell address, before reading a Q post aloud.
A book promoting QAnon, that claimed Democrats eat children, also reached the No. 2 on Amazon’s best-seller list.
Cover image: A man holds a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)