Michigan GOP Secretary of State candidate to speak at QAnon conference
LANSING — A Republican candidate for Michigan Secretary of State is set to speak at a conference organized by prominent QAnon conspiracy theory adherents.
Kristina Karamo, an Oak Park Republican who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, recently announced on Facebook that she would speak at the "For God & County: Patriot Double Down" conference this weekend in Las Vegas.
In her Oct. 2 post, Karamo shared a conference logo that included popular QAnon imagery: A seven and queen of hearts cards, a reference to Q, the 17th letter in the alphabet.
But Karmamo "was unaware" of the reference, and she "does not and never has supported QAnon," her campaign told Bridge Michigan on Wednesday after VICE News first reported on her planned participation in the conference.
"The conference is not about QAnon, it's about God and Country," Karamo's campaign said in an email
"Kristina can not control who will be at the conference and (if) some out of the hundreds that will be there believe in QAnon so be it, but one will probably never know as that is not what the conference is about. For the press to continue to state otherwise is simply an attempt to smear a good person through guilt by association."
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Conference organizers, however, have not been shy about the QAnon connection. An official promotional video includes several QAnon references and describes the event as "the great awakening weekend," a callback to the conspiracy belief that Trump will one day expose a deep state cabal that has worked to thwart him.
Planned keynote speakers include Ron Watkins, known in the QAnon community as CodeMonkeyZ, and his father Jim Watkins, the owner and operator of a website that has been instrumental in spreading the conspiracy theory.
The FBI in 2019 labeled QAnon a domestic terrorism threat. Since the 2020 election, QAnon adherents have expanded their conspiracy theory to include unfounded claims that widespread fraud benefited Democratic President Joe Biden and cost Trump re-election.
Karamo, who was a GOP poll challenger at Detroit's absentee counting board in November 2020, has also claimed wrongdoing in the Michigan election and submitted an affidavit cited in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the official results.
Karamo spoke last week at a Michigan Capitol rally urging lawmakers to order a "forensic audit" of the 2020 election. State Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, wore a QAnon button to the rally and told The Detroit News that Q is "the highest level of security in the federal government."
This weekend's "Double Down" conference in Las Vegas is being hosted by The Patriot Voice, a group led by John Sabal, also known as QAnon John, who organized a similar event in Dallas in May.
Ahead of the May event, Sabal told his online followers that he had considered removing Q references from promotional materials to "protect" speakers "because of the MASSIVE amount of negative publicity we have gotten in the MSM and continue to get."
But, Sabal wrote on Telegram, a conservative social media site, he felt "vindicated" when pro-Trump attorney L. Lin Wood appeared to endorse the conspiracy by drawing a Q in the air and stating “”there’s your Q” during a separate convention in Tulsa.
"This couldn’t come in better timing, as The Patriot Voice will magnify that TRUTH to an entirely new level," Sabal wrote in April.
Like the Dallas event, the pending Las Vegas conference has proven controversial since it was announced, with local newspapers and television outlets reporting on the QAnon connections.
Organizers initially planned to hold the conference at Caesars casino, but casino management pulled the plug without explanation in late August.
The Double Down event will instead be held at the Ahern Hotel, just off the Las Vegas Strip, which is owned by the Nevada Republican Party's finance chairman, according to local CBS affiliate 8 News Now.
Karamo, who is seeking the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, has focused on "election security" in her campaign and spoke last week at a Capitol rally demanding a "forensic audit" of the 2020 election.
According to her website, Karamo is leading a "research team" that includes former Secretary of State personnel and is "investigating the 'governmental pathologies' which prevent the Office of the Secretary of State from operating according to the rule of law."
State Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, is the only other declared Republican candidate for Secretary of State, but Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry and Livingston County Republican Party chair Meghan Reckling are also considering campaigns for the 2022 nomination.
"The only queue I'm interested in is the line at the Secretary of State’s offices," LaFave told Bridge when asked about Karamo’s participation in the conference.
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