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GOP Candidates Open To QAnon Conspiracy Theory Advance In Congressional Races

Lauren Boebert, a restaurant owner in Colorado, will now be the Republican nominee in Colorado's 3rd District. She ousted five-term Congressman Scott Tipton on Tuesday night.
Lauren Boebert campaign website
Lauren Boebert, a restaurant owner in Colorado, will now be the Republican nominee in Colorado's 3rd District. She ousted five-term Congressman Scott Tipton on Tuesday night.

It's hard to know what's most notable about the Colorado Republican primary upset that ousted Rep. Scott Tipton on Tuesday night.

It could be that the primary winner, restaurant owner Lauren Boebert, is a newcomer to politics who defeated a five-term incumbent. It could be that her restaurant (the aptly named Shooters Grill, in also-aptly-named Rifle, Colo.) is known for its servers who openly carry firearms on the job. It could be that the race represents another defeat for a Trump-backed candidate.

It could also be her openness to the QAnon conspiracy theory.


QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory focused on an anonymous figure, "Q," who posts to Internet message boards. Among the false beliefs is the idea that former special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed not to investigate President Trump but, rather, to investigate other people, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama, for various extreme allegations that have been thoroughly debunked. The theory also posits that those supposed investigation targets are wearing ankle monitors that track their movements.

The conspiracy theory has gained traction on the far right, and believers have touted it with signs at Trump rallies.

Boebert is one of several general election congressional candidates who have spoken in support of QAnon. Wednesday morning, Alex Kaplan, a senior researcher at liberal-leaning media-monitoring organization Media Matters for America, counted nine who would make it to the general election. Altogether, the organization has counted 59 congressional candidates who have expressed support for QAnon.

Boebert appeared on SteelTruth, a show hosted by QAnon believer Ann Vandersteel, during the primary campaign. In that interview, she said she was "very familiar" with the theory and voiced support for it, though she didn't say she fully believed in QAnon's ideas.

"Everything that I've heard of Q, I hope that this is real, because it only means America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values, and that's what I am for," she said. "And so everything that I have heard of this movement is only motivating and encouraging and bringing people together stronger, and if this is real, then it could be really great for our country."

NPR asked Boebert's campaign about her views on QAnon. Her campaign responded with a statement from the candidate: "I'm glad the IG and the AG are investigating deep state activities that undermine the President. I don't follow QAnon."

Here Boebert appears to be referring to Justice Department investigations into the origins of the Russia probe. That investigation looked into ties between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

QAnon remains a fringe conspiracy theory. Three-quarters of Americans have never heard of it, according to an April poll from the Pew Research Center, and another 20% have heard only "a little." Only a tiny sliver — 3% — say they've heard "a lot" about it.

But Congress members who believe in or are open to the conspiracy theory mean that the theory's beliefs could have representation on Capitol Hill. It could also mean a new, louder megaphone for the theory and its supporters.

Many congressional candidates who have said they support QAnon have gone further than Boebert in voicing their beliefs.

Oregon Republican Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins, for example, said, "I stand with Q and the team" in her victory speech after winning the nomination to run against Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congressional candidate in Georgia, said in a 2017 video that "Q is a patriot" and that she wanted to "take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out," as The Washington Post has reported. (Top Republicans have rebuked Greene for her racist views expressed in online videos and reported on by Politico.)

While some of these candidates stand little chance of winning in November — Perkins, for example, is running in a Senate race that the Cook Political Report has rated "Solid Democratic" — Boebert's chances are good. Boebert's race, in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, is rated "Solid Republican." Greene is headed to a GOP primary runoff in Georgia's 14th District, which is also considered safe Republican territory in the fall.

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Corrected: June 30, 2020 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier version of this story misstated Jo Rae Perkins' first name as Joe.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.