How right-wing Qanon activists won and lost control of a small town in Washington

Sasha Abramsky reports in depth on the political takeover of Sequim, Washington, by racist Qanon nuts and right-wing activists—and how the slim blue local majority managed to get rid of them. It's a gripping story, and also an illustrative one, showing how a minority of organized, enraged conservatives are winning big at the ground level simply by turning up for local politics, for meetings and elections: the local Qanon "strongman" ran unopposed for mayor. Once in office, the firings and hirings began and everything turned to crap.

For two years, Armacost ran Sequim like his personal fiefdom, at one time subjecting people who called his city council phone line to a recorded message advertising herbal remedies ("in a capsule or gummy form") that he was selling on the side. Armacost's power was magnified by the Independent Advisory Association, a local group run by two longtime conservative operatives, Donnie Hall and Jim McIntire, with a Roger Stone–style take-no-prisoners approach. The IAA claimed to be nonpartisan, but locals recall that it would turn local political events into spectacles by red-baiting opponents and accusing critics of being outside agitators. When city council seats opened up, as they did three times in the early days of the Armacost mayorship, the IAA reportedly groomed potential appointees to be selected by the mayor and his colleagues. As the pandemic intensified, it tapped into public anger over lockdowns in order to Trumpify government offices along the peninsula.

Once the left did organize there, though—notably in alliance with moderate conservatives—they thrashed the right-wingers with 30-40 point margins.

In Sequim, the five SGGL candidates for city council—Rathbun, Janisse, Vicki Lowe, Kathy Downer, and Rachel Anderson—all got between 65 and 70 percent of the vote. Both hospital commissioners' positions in the county went to SGGL candidates, as did the fire commission and school district posts up for election last year. … "Four of the SGGL candidates are left-leaning. I'm right-leaning," [Brandon] Janisse says. "But they endorsed me because of how I think government should be run at the local level. We're worried about 'Are the roads paved? Are the alleys good? Do you have sidewalks? Are the sewers not spraying leaks everywhere?'"

Don't miss the grift, too: the first thing this clown did as mayor was rig his phones to sell quack remedies to callers.