PORTLAND, Ore. — A long-time Oregon politician and Democrat, Sen. Jeff Merkley, is facing off against self-proclaimed QAnon believer and Republican, Jo Rae Perkins, on the November ballot for the Senate.
Perkins, who ran for the US Senate in 2014 and the US House in 2016 and 2018, won the Republican primary in May 2020. She has voiced her views of support of the QAnon conspiracy theory repeatedly during her campaign, admitting multiple times she "stands with Pres. Trump. I stand with Q and the team."
QAnon is a conspiracy theory that started in 2017 alleging a child sex-trafficking group is plotting against Pres. Donald Trump, among dozens of other factually incorrect theories surrounding current and former politicians.
During an interview with KGW News in September 2020, Perkins was pressed on her beliefs in QAnon -- and issues surrounding the race. However, she repeated a lot of untrue statements in our interview, which is why we decided not to air or publish her statements in full.
For example, when she was asked about her belief that the number of COVID deaths are over-inflated, she made a false statement about Herman Cain's death. Cain contacted COVID-19 at Pres. Trump's rally in Tulsa, and died of COVID several weeks later.
Her opponent Sen. Merkley disagreed, saying COVID deaths are actually undercounted.
"If you look at the number of deaths and compare it to a normal year, then it's more than 200,000. There are a lot of deaths happening connected to the coronavirus that aren't going to be reported as coronavirus. So if anything, in fact, the impact on Americans has been more than the number we hear reported in the daily news," Sen. Merkley said.
When asked about racism in America, Perkins defiantly said she doesn't believe it exists here.
"Overall, no [I don't think it exists], especially after talking with people that have emigrated here from other countries. They tell me that this is the least racist country they've ever been in. For the most part, we accept people ... I'm not racist. I accept people for who they are. If they're not meeting the success that that they want to have and opening up doors and stop putting blocks in their way, whatever those blocks may be, or people have a victim mentality, we should help them work through that victim mentality," Perkins said.
On police reform, Perkins said she believes officers need mental health counseling, to deal with traumas they encounter on the job.
Sen. Merkley said people are looking for substantive changes in policing, like ending no-knock warrants and reforming police training.
"Everyone in the community is your client. It's not that the white population are your clients and the community of color are the threat. Everyone is the client. You're there to help everyone and to provide equal protection and safety for everyone that's takes training and takes dialogue and takes people wrestling with the biases that they may have brought it developed a grown up with," Sen. Merkley said.
Lastly, the candidates agreed on one point -- that our forests need better management to prevent wildfires.
"Certainly forest management really does matter," Sen. Merkley said. "Our second growth forests are all planted at once and they become very fire-prone. The trees are very close together, they're so thick that it's hard for firefighters to get through the forest, the canopies are all the same height. Mowing those forests and doing prescribed bone burns on those forests really can make them more resilient."
"The cost to fight those fires is way more than what it should be, because we should be able to log a lot of that wood," Perkins said. "There's so much timber out there. Unfortunately, it's burning up now and it's not just the loss of the timber. It's the loss of wildlife ... so we're not only losing timber and putting major pollutants into the air from his fires, we're also losing habitat for wildlife and losing the wildlife," Perkins said.