BALTIMORE — Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has asked for a protective order that would bar attorneys for six police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray from publicly sharing Gray's autopsy and other evidence in the case. In a motion filed in Baltimore Circuit Court on Tuesday, Mosby's office argued that such…
Notorious MAGA conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins hopes to move from QAnon to Congress -- and he needs Arizona voters to do so
Watkins, who is widely believed to have been behind QAnon's master account, has been making national headlines for his congressional bid in Arizona where he is attempting to unseat Democratic Congressman Tom O'Halleran in a large rural district that encompasses a large portion of the state.
However, that district won't exist in 2022: All of the state's districts are being redrawn by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, and final decisions won't be made until the end of the year.
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The Arizona Mirror obtained a copy of Watkins' voter registration information through the state's public records law. It shows Watkins registered to vote in Maricopa County on Oct. 9, at a condominium in the Biltmore neighborhood of Phoenix. Property records show that the property is owned by Liz Harris, a Republican who lost a bid for the state legislature in 2020 and has since become a leading proponent of false claims that widespread fraud changed the election's results.
Harris is also the real estate agent for the property, which was listed for sale in August. Online realty websites show the condominium is priced at about $287,000 and that a sale is pending. It's unclear if Watkins is purchasing the property.
Harris has been the driving force behind a group of conservatives who have canvassed Maricopa County and other parts of the state to identify alleged voter fraud. But the report she spearheaded based on that door-to-door scouring was rife with errors, including listing areas that had homes on it as vacant lots and lacking other corroborating information.
But who exactly is Watkins? And how is a man who has spent the past decade living in Japan, China and the Philippines able to run for higher office in Arizona?
Mass shootings and child porn
Before QAnon, many came to associate Watkins with an online image board called 8chan, which was later renamed 8kun. Watkins didn't create the site — its founder was Fredrick Brennan, who would later cut ties with the website — but he became its administrator after his father, Jim Watkins, purchased it.
The Christchurch shooter in New Zealand said that he frequented the 4chan and 8chan message boards where far-right and white supremacist rhetoric was prevalent, and directly linked to other real-life hate crimes. The website also promoted antisemitism, at one point creating a cryptocurrency for users to boost their posts with a program they called “King of the Shekel."
However, 8kun's most active board by far is “Q Research." As of Oct. 20, the board had more than 1,300 unique users and over 14 million posts.
In launching his campaign, Watkins has begun to distance himself from QAnon, going so far as to claim he is not associated with the movement; he is headlining a major QAnon convention later this month.
From Asia to Arizona
Prior to coming to Arizona, Watkins was living in Japan for about a year. Before that, he had also lived in China and the Philippines, where 8chan and 8kun were based.
And although he's registered to vote in a tiny Maricopa County neighborhood, Watkins is running for a sprawling rural congressional district. The 1st District runs from the Four Corners to Tucson's northern outskirts, taking in parts of Yavapai County along with the entirety of eastern Arizona. At 58,608 square-miles, it is the largest congressional district in the country — and is larger than 25 states.
In his initial campaign filing with the Federal Elections Commission, Watkins lists a P.O. Box at a Sedona mailbox store as his campaign's official address. But in denoting himself as both the official custodian of records and the campaign's treasurer, Watkins used his Phoenix address.
Arizona law only requires that congressional candidates be registered voters, not that they live or are even registered to vote in the congressional district they hope to represent. Since Watkins is running for Congress, he just needs to be a resident of the state.
What does Watkins' candidacy mean?
“In previous decades, we wouldn't have noticed or cared," Joseph Uscinski, a professor at the University of Miami who specializes in conspiracy theories, told the Mirror.
But as QAnon has become more prominent, and mainstreamed within Republican politics, and because of Watkins' status within the QAnon community, his candidacy has created much more attention than it historically would have generated, Uscinski said.
Candidates with conspiratorial beliefs have always existed, like Lyndon LaRouche, who ran in every presidential election from 1976 to 2004 and believed in and spread a large number of conspiracy theories.
“I don't get the impression that Ron Watkins fits into any Republican or Democrat mold. I don't think he cares about tax policy or anything like that," Uscinski said about Watkins and what his candidacy may mean for the political nature of Arizona. “I don't know what is going on inside of these guys's minds."
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Watkins did not respond to a request for comment about his policy goals, his connections to Harris and what is motivating him to run.
Watkins is certainly not the first candidate from the QAnon fever swamps to run for Congress, though he is the most prominent. Last year saw a rise in candidates with QAnon beliefs, many in Arizona, but only two were successful — and only Marjorie Taylor Greene was “committed" to QAnon, Uscinski said.
QAnon has deep roots in Arizona, including among its elected officials. And since the 2020 election, more of the state's politicians and candidates have begun to fully embrace QAnon beliefs: Sen. Wendy Rogers has tweeted “Q drops" and gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has tweeted the QAnon conspiracy about Jeffrey Epstein allegedly being murdered.
Watkins and the audit
Watkins is also connected to the state Senate's self-styled “audit."
Doug Logan, the CEO of the Florida based firm that was hired to conduct the audit of Maricopa's 2020 election results, asked Watkins to contact him on his now defunct Twitter. It is unclear if the two ever connected.
Watkins is also connected to the audit via Conan Hayes, a former professional surfer who made millions of dollars selling a clothing company who has become a prominent player in the “election fraud" conspiracy world. At MyPillow CEO's “Cyber Symposium" in August, Watkins said he was given voting machine files from Mesa County, Colo., by Hayes.
Cyber Ninjas refused to answer questions from the Mirror about whether Hayes was involved in the “audit," as either a paid contractor or a volunteer.
Watkins, who is running as a Republican, will need to gather petition signatures from GOP voters in the district he hopes to represent in order to qualify for the ballot. How many signatures he'll need to gather won't be known until January, but candidates for the current CD1 needed more than 1,400 for the 2020 election.
“I don't necessarily think that the QAnon supporters are going to line up for him," Uscinski said, noting that the QAnon community has become increasingly polarized and fractured since Trump was defeated and repeated prophecies that he would be reinstated have proved false, adding “it could get him free advertising for his other projects or he could actually want to win."
***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously said that QAnon has deep roots among “election officials" in Arizona. That passage has been corrected to say “elected officials." Jeffrey Epstein's name was also misspelled.
Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: email@example.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.
Colorado Supreme Court denies Tina Peters’ appeal of decision barring her from Mesa County election involvement
The court issued a one-sentence order on Wednesday that declined to accept jurisdiction in the case. That means Peters will not serve as Mesa County's designated election official this election cycle.
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Peters' appeal, filed Monday by her attorney, Scott Gessler, who is a former Republican Colorado secretary of state, argued that District Court Judge Valerie Robison did not have the authority to strip Peters of that responsibility.
“Colorado law unambiguously mandates that a county clerk and recorder fulfill the duties as the county DEO, and a court may not override this statutory mandate. Likewise, Colorado law does not give a court authority to declare that an elected official is unwilling or unable to carry out her duties, based on a past violation of election rules," the appeal reads.
It went on to state that Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley are “willing and able" to perform their duties as related to the Nov. 2 election. Additionally, Gessler wrote that Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, had already imposed “aggressive and robust" remedies to the alleged violations by decertifying the county's election equipment and appointing an elections supervisor.
Gessler wrote that allowing Robison's decision to stand could “fundamentally alter election administration and application of Colorado's election laws."
The Supreme Court, however, will not hear the appeal.
Peters has been under scrutiny since she allowed an unauthorized person to attend Mesa County's “trusted build" software update for its Dominion Voting Systems election equipment in May. Photos of confidential passwords taken during that update were then posted online and distributed to voter-fraud conspiracy websites.
That conduct is under investigation by local, state and federal officials.
Another former Colorado secretary of state, Wayne Williams, will serve as the designated elected official for the Nov. 2 elections in Mesa County. Peters is still the county clerk, but cannot interact with election workers.tina-peters-supreme-court-appeal
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Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.
A retired Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority railcar sitting to his far right offered an example of how neglected the country's infrastructure has been. Its letters were barely visible. The door's paint was scuffed and faded.
Next to it, however, stood a refurbished trolley car, decked out in patriotic pennants and “Build Back Better" signs.
Biden used his speech at Electric City Trolley Museum in downtown Scranton to argue his signature domestic agenda will make the nation's infrastructure resemble the tricked-out trolley instead of the rusted-out railcar.
That change will improve the nation's economy and environment, he said.
“Did you realize the Chinese are now building a train that will go up to 300 miles per hour?" Biden asked. “You say, 'What difference does that make, Biden?' Well, guess what? If you can take a train from here to Washington much faster than you can go in an automobile, you take a train. We will take literally millions of automobiles off the road, saving tens of millions of barrels of oil."
After spending the first few months of his administration dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and getting the nation vaccinated, the president has moved on to expansive infrastructure and economic plans.
They would include massive investments in transportation, broadband, early childhood education, and other areas. However, the razor-thin majority Democrats hold in Congress has meant a protracted and frustrating legislative fight for the president.
He's not giving up.
“This has been declared dead on arrival from the moment I introduced it," Biden said. “But I think we're going to surprise them because I think people are beginning to figure out what's at stake."
Earlier in the afternoon, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District, sounded confident the bills would eventually pass.
Just hours before Biden took the stage, NPR reported that the administration was dropping its plan for two years of tuition-free community college.
The goals Biden set out to accomplish are important ones, State Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, said. They're going to take care of people's basic needs, she said.
State Sen. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, brought up the child tax credit, saying that was public policy that people could see immediately affect their finances. Biden wants to extend the program.
“I think that's huge," Flynn said.
Madden also said the possibility of a passenger train running from Scranton to New York City would make a huge difference to the region.
“I feel like we're closer than ever," she told The Capital Star.
Larry Malski, the president of the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority, has been advocating for rail's return to the region for decades and knows what it feels like to face empty promises.
Is he optimistic?
“More so than I have been in 40 years," he said.
Everyone talks about the possible line. That Amtrak's CEO and president attended Biden's speech didn't go unnoticed.
The president bragged about his connections to the rail line, pointing out he has 2 million Amtrak miles under his belt. That comes from decades of commuting between his home in Delaware and Washington D.C.
He also spent the first 10 years of his life in Scranton, and has recently returned to the narrative of pitting Scranton values against Wall Street interests as he struggles to get his legislation passed.
This time, he didn't just talk about the values he learned as a child in 1940s Scranton, but how the city's growth in the late 1800s and early 20th century can be repeated with different resources.
It's a parallel to the nation for Biden.
“Coal built this town," he said, “but we have to provide other avenues."
Biden argued the nation has to go back to the values of promoting and investing in education.
Scranton would benefit from the green energy jobs in the region and several of the programs in his infrastructure and spending bills, he said.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown agrees.
Before the speech, he talked to the Capital-Star about how his city is still grappling with issues from the pandemic. Businesses like Guard Insurance employ thousands, but are still operating on a work-from-home system. That has starved downtown restaurants and businesses of much-needed revenue.
Meanwhile, the region is grappling with more and more damage from strong storms.
So, the funds Biden is advocating for would take a lot of pressure off the city government, Brown said.
Brown advocated for the region, pointing out that if this region is successful, it will be a boon for the state, and be a building block for the nation's economic return.
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Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: email@example.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.
Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.
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