Still a shaman, but not the ‘Q’ shaman: Chansley rebrands for Congress bid

(Video by Alexandria Cullen/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Jacob Angeli-Chansley said he is not ready to give up on shamanism, but he wants voters in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District to know that he no longer wants to be known as the QAnon Shaman.

“I’ve never called myself a shaman. I call myself a shamanic practitioner. I practice shamanism,” said Angeli-Chansley, who rocketed to fame as the face-painted, horned-hat face of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“If I’m going to rebrand myself, it would be maybe ‘America’s shaman,’ because the QAnon label has been stigmatized with the number of sub-labels or subcategories, conspiracy theories, white supremists, terrorists,” he said. “I don’t want to be associated with anything that the media has already maligned.”

That rebranding comes as Angeli-Chansley mounts a bid for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, who does not plan to run for reelection in 2024.

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Political analysts call Angeli-Chansley’s bid a longshot, at best, in the crowded, high-profile race. And they say it will be nearly impossible for the man who has been called a poster child of Jan. 6 to change his image.

“It’d be very difficult to separate himself from that,” said Paul Bentz, senior vice president of research and strategy at HighGround Inc. “The fact that he got out of jail and … went right back to wearing his traditional garb and going to events, playing being that persona, being that recognizable figure, that’s what makes him recognizable. I don’t see him stepping away from that.”

Angeli-Chansley was indicted on six counts in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection and pleaded guilty to one felony count of obstructing an official proceeding. He was sentenced to 41 months, but was released after 27 months.

Angeli-Chansley said he is intent on changing his image to reflect who he really is, not “crazy” or “bad” as he says the media portrayed him to be after his involvement at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

One thing that hasn’t changed: Angeli-Chansley still wants to transform Washington, but through the ballot box this time.

“When it comes to representing the people of District 8, look: The funds are there, whether they be federal or state, to correct these problems,” he said. “The thing is, is that they’re being mismanaged. They’re being used to reinforce the system as it is, which is profiting less than 1% of the population at the expense of the other 99.9%. So I seek to correct all of that.”

But it’s a long way between announcing a bid for Congress and winning the seat.

Angeli-Chansley filed a statement of interest last month with the Arizona Secretary of State to run as a Libertarian for the seat. He must still set up a committee with the Federal Election Commission, collect petition signatures to get on the ballot and run in the primary for the Libertarian Party – the only party in Arizona that holds a closed primary.

The Libertarian Party said it normally does not comment on primary elections. But in response to numerous media requests it released a statement Nov. 15 that said it is up to the state to determine if candidates meet the requirements to be on the ballot and that the party currently “has no confirmation of Mr. Angeli-Chansley’s eligibility.”

Even if he wins the nomination, Angeli-Chansley would be running in a general election in a solidly GOP district where registered Republican voters outnumber Libertarians almost 50-1.

He would be facing off against a field of high-profile Republicans who are seeking Lesko’s seat, including former Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, 2022 U.S. Senate nominee Blake Masters, 2022 attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh and Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale – who was also at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Bentz said the 8th District has a significant number of retirees who may not be interested in an “outlandish character” like Angeli-Chansley.

“Some of the messaging he has around conservatism might resonate. But the packaging, the overall position – I don’t think is going to go over very well,” Bentz said.

He believes Angeli-Chansley’s campaign may be more about boosting his notoriety and fame than being a “serious candidate.”

“It appears … that he is an individual seeking out media attention and coverage to increase his name ID and continue to build his brand. We’ll see if that changes,” Bentz said. “And (to) have an actual shot at election requires money. Grassroots attention and media coverage alone will not get them there. It requires direct voter contact.”

Jacob Angeli-Chansley, running as a Libertarian for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, left, and at a 2020 election protest as the shaman who would later become famous as the face of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Screen grab by Alexandria Cullen/Photo by Hope O’Brien/Cronkite News)

But Angeli-Chansley said he does not plan to take money for his campaign.

“I’m not going to have the deep state puppet strings on my hands and back … I’m not going to play their game. I’m going to change their game,” he said.

Mike Noble, of Noble Predictive insights, said lack of funding will only hurt Angeli-Chansley’s chances of winning the competitive race. Noble said if Angeli-Chansley ran for a lower-profile seat, like the state Legislature, he could “actually win.”

“Money matters a lot less there (at that level) because there’s a lot less voters you’ve got to get to and it’s actually very feasible to get to on a grassroots level,” Noble said. “You have a better chance of seeing aliens this year than seeing the QAnon Shaman get elected to Congress.”

Adrienne Washington A-dree-en WAH-shing-tuhn
News Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Adrienne Washington is a multimedia journalist currently in the investigative journalism master’s program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in diversity studies from the University of Washington. Her work has been featured in the Associated Press, the Seattle Times, the Los Angeles Times, ABC News and Cronkite News as well as local reporting outlets in the Puget Sound area.

Alexandria Cullen ah-le-xan-dree-ah cul-len (she/her/hers)
News Broadcast Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Alexandria Cullen expects to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication. Cullen has interned as a reporter at Ability360 and was news director and a reporter for CTV at Colorado State University.