“Molded eyes that don’t see, painted-on fake smiles and empty talking heads with no concept of the needs of Arizona”: Longtime Arizona Democratic senator responds to rise of Kari Lake, Ron Watkins, and candidates associated with QAnon

Kari Lake and Ron Watkins are running for office. Mary Hartley says they are a far cry from meeting the moment for Arizonans


David Geitgey Sierralupe

The Betsy Ross flag and a QAnon banner hanging side-by-side following the Jan. 6 insurrection. These emblems are considered important imagery within far-right circles.

In a photo recently posted on various websites, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is seen smiling alongside alleged QAnon creator Ron Watkins —the man reportedly believed to be responsible for “Q” writings and bizarre, unfounded, apocalyptic political predictions.

Watkins posted the photo of himself and Lake on his Telegram account with a caption that reads “just had dinner with Kari Lake, the next Governor of Arizona.” He also announced his intention to run for Congress on a pro-Donald Trump platform, resorting to Telegram after former right-wing gathering space Parler was made unavailable. 

Lake has many Arizonans skeptical of her qualifications for the state’s highest office given her outspoken defiance and claim of presidential election “fraud.” This has been a consistent campaign talking point and mimics her most prominent supporter — Trump. 

A self-described former journalist, Lake is opposed to vaccine and mask mandates, and was seen throwing a mask on the ground at a recent ASU speaking engagement.

A QAnon believer pictured at the Million MAGA March Gathering Rally in Washington, D.C. last November. (Elvert Barnes)

But Lake’s recent photo with Watkins sheds a vivid light on the “Q” and how conspiracy has saturated Republican politics in Arizona. The Lake campaign often recites the same messages as other state politicians with QAnon allegiances.  

Lake frequently claims the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. was also falsified and that the rioters were actually invited by Capitol police—an accusation that has never been evidenced. 

“The only experience either of them has, that I can discern, is that you might recognize them from Fox News for Lake, and a far more dubious TV exposure to that of Watkins, who is highly featured in documentaries about QAnon currently being aired on several forums. Both are happy to tie their little wagons to Trump’s coattails and back ‘the big lie,'” former Democratic state senator Mary Hartley, who served in the Arizona Senate representing District 20 for eight years, told Northeast Valley News.

Lake’s consistent reference to herself as a journalist is beginning to irritate Arizona voters who spoke to Northeast Valley News. 

“To call herself a journalist—is a stretch—she keeps claiming things that are not factual,” said Michelle Clemente, a teacher at a Phoenix high school. “How does what she says equate to journalism? Her campaign is just more misinformation and outright lies, and this is something that Fox News is known for— but it certainly isn’t journalism.”

Kari Lake is considered the favorite for the Republican nomination in Arizona’s 2022 gubernatorial race. (Gage Skidmore)

NEVN contacted the Arizona Republican Party for comment on Lake’s recent photo and her alleged dinner with Watkins, as well as some of Lake’s more inexplicable claims. A GOP spokesperson said they would not comment on Lake’s campaign until after the primary.

For her part, Lake is downplaying the QAnon connection, and was recently quoted as saying that photo ops with people who attend her rallies are simply part of campaigning.  

Watkins has participated in the growth and proliferation of QAnon theories, as chronicled in the HBO docuseries “Q: Into the Storm.” Many followers believe that he is in fact, the “Q”— even though Watkins has denied the claim.

On Nov. 2, another uncanny prediction led QAnon believers to gather at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. That QAnon “prophecy” held the former president’s son, John F. Kennedy Jr., would reappear and be reinstated as former President Trump’s next vice president.

Kennedy, Jr. died in a 1999 plane crash along with his wife Carolyn and sister Lauren.

Former Arizona State Senator Hartley pulled no punches in her opinion of both Lake and Watkins. 

“This pair of candidates, and I use that term loosely here, is a far cry from the type of public servants Arizona needs at this time,” Hartley said. “Lake has changed political parties a number of times showing no allegiance to any great cause or issue she has worked on. She claims to be pro-life, yet is anti-mask, and apparently anti-vaccine too — which in my book is quite a contradiction.”

Hartley also discussed the notion that Watkins has no known Arizona connections — except, perhaps, as a state where GOP politics promote QAnon and other wild, unsubstantiated conspiracies.

Lake has changed political parties a number of times showing no allegiance to any great cause or issue she has worked on. She claims to be pro-life, yet is anti-mask, and apparently anti-vaccine too — which in my book is quite a contradiction.

— Former Arizona State Senator Mary Hartley

“Watkins doesn’t seem to have ANY ties to our state before ‘The Great Republican Audit Debacle,’ and not much of a platform to run on. This thirty-something (his exact age is unknown as 34 – 35) can be seen in documentaries cavorting across Southeast Asia with his dad James, footing the bill. He doesn’t have any post-secondary education to speak of, and is suspected of being the mighty “Q” himself. No one seems sure if he even resides in Arizona’s Congressional District One,” Hartley said. 

“Maybe Dad is footing the bill for this campaign as well, since the Watkins’ support for the January 6th Insurrection crashed and burned, the thought of unending election audits, and other shameful scenarios, have this old taxpayer quaking in her boots.

“The only silver lining I can see, should these two survive their primaries, is a boost in voter turn-out of Independents and Democrats—from my lips to God’s ears!”