The man who became a figurehead of the January 6 Capitol riot is planning to run for Congress in Arizona, and he may not even be the most extreme candidate on the ballot.
Jacob Chansley, a January 6 rioter known as the QAnon Shaman who wore face paint and horns to breach the Capitol, pleaded guilty to taking part in the riot. Last week, Chansley filed a statement of interest to run for a seat in Arizona’s 8th congressional district. Chansley, who has lived in the district for 30 years, tells WIRED that he is running his campaign single-handedly and does not plan to accept PAC money. Though he’s not eligible to vote under Arizona law because he is still serving part of his sentence, Chansley is able to run for Congress.
“When I heard that the seat was available, I prayed on it for a while, and the message I got from God was, ‘Do it,’” says Chansley.
In Arizona, Chansley’s decision to run for office is almost standard. Though Chansley may be viewed as a fringe candidate by many, he is not an outlier in a district and state where election deniers and conspiracists are already front and center in the 2024 election races.
Ever since former US president Donald Trump lost Arizona in 2020, the state has become the epicenter of election denial conspiracies and efforts to undermine democracy. The state was home to the Cyber Ninjas–run GOP recount that cost taxpayers millions, and its voters are represented by multiple far-right extremist GOP lawmakers, including state senator Wendy Rogers and US representative Paul Gosar, who have boosted wild conspiracy theories related to vote rigging. Former TV presenter Kari Lake, who has been touted as a possible vice presidential pick by Trump in 2024, continues to claim that the Arizona secretary of state race she lost by 17,000 votes in 2022 was stolen. Lake has also boosted racist “birther” conspiracies about former president Barack Obama and has pushed for journalists and political rivals to be jailed for unspecified crimes.
In Chansley’s home district, a slate of candidates reflecting Arizona’s embrace of extremist ideologies have already declared interest in running for the seat left open by the retirement of US representative Debbie Lesko, a member of the far-right Republican Freedom Caucus in Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election results.
Blake Masters, who ran for a US Senate seat in 2022 and lost, announced he would run for a seat in Arizona’s 8th district last month. During his Senate race, Masters was backed by money from techno-libertarian Peter Thiel, his former boss, as well as an endorsement from Trump, who told him to lean into claims of election fraud if he wanted to win the election. (Masters very much touted 2020 election denial conspiracies, but they apparently didn’t help him win.)
Masters, who published videos of him shooting guns as part of his 2022 campaign, will face a challenge for the GOP nomination from Abe Hamadeh. Hamadeh, a 2022 Republican candidate for Arizona attorney general, also lost his race in 2022 despite having Trump’s endorsement. Hamadeh was one of the loudest voices in Arizona falsely claiming that Trump had won the 2020 election, and he is still trying to have his own loss to attorney general Kris Mayes overturned.
Former US representative Trent Franks, Lesko’s predecessor, is also running again. Franks was forced to resign in 2017 after he offered female staffers millions of dollars to serve as surrogate mothers for him and his wife—and at least one aide was unsure whether Franks was requesting to impregnate her through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization.
Anthony Kern, an Arizona state senator who was also in Washington, DC, on January 6, and who has been accused of using campaign finances to fund his trip to the capital, has announced his candidacy for the congressional seat as well. Kern was captured on video entering a restricted area outside the Capitol, though there is no evidence he was violent or entered the Capitol itself, and he has not been charged for any crimes related to the riot.
Kern is, however, currently under investigation by the Arizona attorney general as one of 11 fake electors who signed documents in 2020 to claim that Trump had beaten President Joe Biden in Arizona, even though Biden actually won the state. Kern also took part in the sham hand-recount of ballots in Maricopa County in 2021.
Before becoming a lawmaker, Kern was fired from his position with the El Mirage Police Department for lying to his supervisor about repaying the cost of a tablet computer he had lost. He was placed on a list of Maricopa County law enforcement officials with a history of dishonesty or misconduct.
“The race in general is gonna be wild,” one independent researcher who tracks the far-right in Arizona under the moniker Arizona Right Watch tells WIRED. But, they add, they would still “take Chansley over Kern, who is totally corrupt and batshit.”
And even though the other candidates are possibly more connected politically, Chansley still thinks he has closer ties to voters in his home district.
“Several of the candidates running here in District 8 don’t even live in District 8. I’ve lived in District 8 for over 30 years,” he tells WIRED. “I’m largely doing it on my own. It’s just me and God, man.”
He’s currently working on a campaign website, and plans to begin knocking on doors to meet voters in the next couple of weeks. Chansley is also eager to take part in debates with other candidates. “That’s where I think I’ll shine,” Chansley says. “I’m ready to debate anyone and everyone that wants to try.”
When asked whether he would be attending a candidate forum being organized by a local community organization on Wednesday night, Chalsey says, “quite possibly.”
Chansley added that he doesn’t want any campaign donations, but says that if people want to support him, they can do so by buying merchandise on his website which includes T-shirts, mugs, and yoga leggings that feature him dressed in the notorious QAnon Shaman garb.
Despite having no experience, no money, no support, and no endorsements, Chansley is still optimistic about winning in 2024.
“I think my chances of winning are good, otherwise God wouldn’t have asked me to run,” Chansley says.