This week, the national media discovered Jo Rae Perkins.
Perkins, an Albany insurance agent, has repeatedly sought federal office in Oregon since 2014, on a platform of eliminating government departments. On May 19, she finally scored a Republican primary win, securing the right to face U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Hours before that victory, Perkins posted on social media an election night video of herself thanking the baseless conspiracy theory QAnon for her success in the primary. She later backpedaled her statements and distanced herself from the conspiracy group. Then, shortly thereafter, she blamed that disavowal on her campaign and reiterated her support for the conspiracy movement.
"Some people think that I follow Q like I follow Jesus. Q is the information and I stand with the information resource," Perkins told ABC News on Friday. "I'm not backpedaling and I'm frustrated. I feel like I'm having to backpedal and that's like torn me up because that's not me."
Perkins' conflicting comments offered little clarity regarding her relationship to QAnon, a right-wing conspiracy theory that falsely alleges leaders of the Democratic Party are running a child sex trafficking ring and that a "cabal" of famous people is seeking to destroy President Donald Trump.
So we looked back through Perkins' social media for clues. Since November 2019, Perkins has tweeted support for QAnon or posted about it on Facebook more than 60 times.
When announcing her run for the Senate in January, Perkins tweeted that she was "recruited" to run for the position, followed by the QAnon-related hashtags #WW1WGA and #GreatAwakening. The strong implication was that Perkins believed her candidacy was part of a greater, secret struggle.
When reached by phone Friday afternoon for comment on her posts, Perkins hung up on WW.
Perkins' social media posts tell the story of someone who didn't stumble into a right-wing conspiracy theory on election night. Instead, the posts show that Perkins has publicly embraced QAnon for months, and she is closely familiar with the group's lingo and ideologies.
On her Facebook page, Perkins regularly linked to QAnon-related conspiracy videos on the YouTube channel IntheMatrixxx.
"Great Show Today!" Perkins said of a May 18 Facebook post linking to one such video.
On one of these videos, Perkins commented into the livestream on YouTube: "Good morning fellow #PatriQts T-1."
On May 5, Perkins was featured as a guest on an IntheMatrixxx episode, as the Daily Beast previously reported. During the two-hour episode, Perkins described COVID-19 as a "fake virus" and disparaged wearing masks to stem its spread.
"I've been talking that, for quite a while, that I think COVID is a form of the flu," Perkins said in the podcast. "If the ladies decide to start wearing full-cover hijabs, will we get accused of not wearing a mask?"
Perkins and the two hosts—who are both prominent QAnon supporters—discussed various conspiracy theories for the duration of the two-hour podcast, and then pointed to Perkins' campaign contribution page in an attempt to fundraise for her.
The page features different dollar amounts donors can give, including a specific donation for $17—a special number for Q believers, because Q is the 17th letter in the alphabet.
And on Twitter, Perkins has regularly engaged with Q believers.
"You just validated that #Q, #QAnon, #QTeam, #QGroup exists!" Perkins wrote Dec. 31. "Have a pleasant day and an amazing #Trump2020 year! #WWG1WGA #Great Awakening."
Perkins' tweets relating to QAnon date back to at least November 2019, when she posted about a QAnon book looking "very interesting."