Online creeper and far-right conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins has filed the necessary paperwork and on Thursday announced his intent to run for Congress in the state of Arizona in 2023.
Watkins, one of the many D-list conservative celebrities that thrived on the MAGA fringe throughout Trump’s presidency and subsequent downfall, portrays himself as a sort of mastermind hacker under the online moniker “CodeMonkeyZ”. He is best known as the “former” administrator of both internet hellhole 8chan and its successor 8kun, the imageboard where three white supremacist mass shooters separately posted manifestos before going on to murder at least 75 people, and the individual widely suspected to be the eponymous “Q” of the QAnon movement.
Vice News reports that Watkins has recently been hanging out with Republican candidates for Arizona office like Kari Lake and state Representative Mark Finchem and filed a statement of intent with the Arizona secretary of state earlier this week, Vice reported. That paperwork isn’t a formal declaration of candidacy, and merely requires Watkins to have claimed residency in the state, but it does clear Watkins to begin collecting petitions to appear on the ballot. Watkins targeted incumbent Democratic Representative Tom O’Halleran, whose term will end in 2023.
In a mortifying video uploaded to his channel on messaging app Telegram, where Watkins has over 400,000 followers, Watkins melodramatically announced: “I’ve come to realize that following God’s word is not always the easiest route but if we don’t follow our beliefs and the founding principles of our nation, it will crumble. This must stop now.”
“Therefore I have decided to double down with God as my compass to take this fight to the swamp of Washington D.C.,” Watkins continued. “I am here to formally announce my run for Congress in Arizona district number one.”
“I have decided to expose the dirtiest Democrat in the DC swamp, and some of you here may already know him as Congressman Tom O’Halleran representing Maricopa County, and District One,” Watkins told watchers. “What’s publicly known about Tom O’Hooligan shows that he is not fit to represent the people of Arizona. And from what I’ve already discovered, and will expose. Tom is not fit to represent anyone anywhere.“
Watkins said during the video that he was inspired to run by pastor Jeff Durbin of Mesa, Arizona’s Apologia Church, who has called for the execution of women who have abortions. Durbin once told a reporter it was a “bit of an insult to Hitler to compare what he did in Nazi Germany” to the pro-choice movement.
For those who have remained blessedly unaware, QAnon is a sprawling movement of right-wing extremists, racists and anti-Semites, and evangelical Christians that believed Donald Trump was fighting an Underworld-style war against a cabal of child-raping, Satanic Democrats. This was entirely cited to stream of consciousness-style posts from “Q”, a pseudonymous 8chan user who claimed to be a high-ranking military or intelligence official aiding Trump’s fight against the left-wing Illuminati. An HBO documentary, Q: Into the Storm, that investigated connections between Ron Watkins, his father Jim Watkins, and QAnon concluded the younger Watkins either was Q or used his administrative powers on the board to seize control of the account at some point.
The show featured numerous, unsettling segments where Watkins, who is well beyond the point of shame, appeared to threaten director Cullen Hoback with a mochi hammer, tried to pressure him into visiting a brothel, and appeared in interviews alongside a life-size Evangelion doll (possibly a sex toy). He also unsuccessfully tried to convince Hoback that Q was former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. In one particularly disturbing scene, Watkins tried to feign sympathy with the victims of the 2019 El Paso shooting, in which a racist gunman targeting Latinos killed 23 people and injured 23 others. Watkins rambled to Hoback about how American shoppers spending American dollars in an American store were killed by a man with a Russian gun.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 elections, the Q account stopped posting, and Watkins claimed to have resigned as administrator of 8chan and tried to rebrand himself as a voter fraud expert. After a swarm of Trump supporters and QAnon followers hopped up on conspiracy theories launched a failed MAGA assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Twitter banned his CodeMonkeyZ account. Since then, Watkin has pivoted to various new identities such as UFOlogist and a cryptocurrency guru selling $600 NFTs of his posts that Trump had retweeted. So running for Congress, or at least pretending to do so long enough to keep far-right eyes and wallets pointed in his direction, seems like a natural progression in the grifting life cycle.
According to Vice, Watkins filmed the announcement video outside the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, where he has arrived three times in failed attempts to secure a meeting. While his candidacy could be generously described as a long shot, a victory in the race would make him the most prominent QAnon associate to hold elected office. Watkins is far more central to the movement than reigning QAnon champ Representative Marjorie Taylor-Greene of Georgia, who since being elected last year has spent most of her term in office on attention stunts like harassing the trans child of another representative or trying and failing to start a white nationalist caucus.
Clarification: A prior version of this article stated that “Watkins said during the video that he was inspired to run by his pastor, Jeff Durbin of Mesa, Arizona’s Apologia Church.” Durbin’s assistant has reached out to Gizmodo to state that Watkins is “NOT a member of Apologia Church and Jeff is NOT his Pastor.” Additionally, a prior version of this article misstated the state Greene represents.