County Chair for Ron DeSantis PAC rode bike naked in public, likened preschool to Nazi indoctrination
Image via YouTube.

Chelgren Chickenman Image via YouTube
His past activities would run him afoul of Florida’s new ‘anti-drag show’ law.

Mark Chelgren, a County Chair for a political action committee (PAC) backing Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign, is in headlines again this week after false claims he made as an Iowa state Senator about his educational background.

More on that later.

What’s been overlooked this election cycle is Chelgren’s well-documented, pre-political behavior that would have seen him run afoul of Florida’s new “anti-drag show” bill, which DeSantis championed and signed in May.

Chelgren, 55, is one of more than 100 county-level Chairs in Iowa for Never Back Down, the main super PAC supporting DeSantis’ run at the White House.

His position with the organization tracks with his past policy proposals, which earned him a polarizing reputation in Iowa politics and mirror recently enacted legislation in Florida under DeSantis.

In the 1990s, while building up his entrepreneurial portfolio, Chelgren was known locally as the “Chickenman” for what he’d wear during the Des Moines Register’s popular Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). His costume included a skull cap with a protruding beak, sleeveless shirt with his nickname written across it, or no shirt at all, and a skirt.

Below the skirt but still visible, Chelgren hung two pink fuzzy balls in front of his crotch, assumedly as a comedic representation of his testicles. He also rode in the event naked while dispensing beer to fellow cyclists. “If someone ripped off my little loin cloth,” he told the Des Moines Register, “being drunk, I’d run around and talk to people.”

There’s video evidence here of Chelgren’s public nudity at the 4:40 mark — obviously not safe for work. A safer-for-work alternative can be viewed below.

According to the RAGBRAI website, the multiday event is open to participants and attendees of all ages, though minors “must be accompanied by responsible adults during the ride, preferably their parents.”

That rule would not be enough to protect the news outlet organizing the ride or the local governments hosting it from criminal charges under Florida’s “Protection of Children” law.

Among other things, the measure bans allowing minors to see “any show, exhibition, or other presentation (that) in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities.” That includes “lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”

Penalties for the first-degree misdemeanor range from $1,000 to $10,000 in fines, up to a year in prison for offenders and potential revocation of liquor licenses for certain establishments.

The measure came after numerous attempts the DeSantis administration made in the preceding year to investigate, shut down and penalize the hosts of drag performances to which some parents took their children.

And while the word “drag” does not appear in any of the measure’s five pages, Florida’s Governor left little doubt about its intent when he signed it May 17 alongside other bills banning gender-affirming treatment for minors, expanding restrictions on LGBTQ inclusion in public schools and requiring public restrooms to be segregated by gender.

“This is sad that you kind of have to do this,” he said at the time. “There’s these, like, drag shows. It’s sexually explicit what they’re doing.”

Like DeSantis, much of Chelgren’s focus as an elected leader was also on education reform. Unlike the current presidential hopeful, he presents a murkier scholarly record.

Renewed reporting this week highlighted how Chelgren, while serving in the state Legislature, included in his Senate website biography that he had a business management degree from the “Forbco Management school.” That turned out to be a training certificate from a Sizzler restaurant chain he worked for in California.

He said in 2017, when news of the untruth first broke, that “there was never any intent at all to mislead people.” Chelgren changed the bio, explaining, “apparently a degree and a certificate are different.”

His biography on the website for Frog Legs Inc., a wheelchair parts manufacturing business he owns, still says Chelgren “completed his education in Astro- and Geo-Physics at the University of California in Riverside.”

That’s not quite true either; Chelgren’s highest educational attainment is an associate’s degree from Riverside Community College. He acknowledged this detail too in 2017, explaining he used the word “completed” to mean “the last place I got educated.”

His own higher education experience notwithstanding, Chelgren’s beliefs and policy proposals on schooling might not seem out of place in DeSantis’ Florida.

In 2017, Chelgren introduced a bill that would have instituted a hiring freeze at Iowa state universities until the number of registered Republican and Democratic instructors fell within a 10% of each other.

He also carried a measure in 2015 that would have allowed college students to vote for which professors they wanted to fire, explaining the bill was designed to keep teachers from running classrooms “like they’re some kind of dictator.”

Four years earlier, during his first term in the Iowa Senate, he compared publicly run preschools to Nazi, Soviet and Chineseindoctrination” operations.

“The Chinese are taking 2- and 3-year-olds and educating them, and as a student of history I also know the Nazis, the Soviets, a whole variety of groups, a whole variety of countries, take their children because it’s not just up to age 6 they’re so malleable,” he said in February 2011. “The day after they’re born is when they learn the most, percentage-wise.”

He later explained he was referring to school choice and parental rights in education.

“I don’t want the state or federal government mandating how our children are educated, because I believe that is where the indoctrination process begins,” he said. “The more we can diversify the education opportunities for our children, I think, the better opportunity we have of allowing them to have a complete and thorough education.”

Florida Politics contacted DeSantis campaign Press Secretary Bryan Griffin for comment but received none by press time.

A spokesperson for Never Back Down noted that Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is the official Chair of the super PAC and that Chelgren holds a volunteer position with the organization.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • ScienceBLVR

    August 22, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    Just like Trump, DeSantis has “Very fine people” on his side…

    • Silly Wabbit

      August 23, 2023 at 1:47 pm

      Kwazy people.

  • Earl Pitts "The Ronald's UnOfficial Campaign Manager" American

    August 22, 2023 at 6:28 pm

    Good evening America,
    There’s nothing more heart warming than a reformed former Dook 4 Brains Leftist who has found the solid rock of conservativsm to build the next glorious chapter of his life upon.
    Even i, Earl Pitts American, used to be a famous Hen Party Dancer on the Batchlorett circut. You know like Chip & Dales, whipped cream, and real cream? Yeah you know.
    And who amoungst us has never donned the “chickin suit” and strutted his stuff at 2 or 3 Hen Parties for tips each weekend while working our way thru College?
    This Chelgren dude is just a regular great American Patriot and an intergrial part of The Earl Pitts American Fan Club. You can trust him America.
    Thank you America,

    • Silly Wabbit

      August 23, 2023 at 1:44 pm

      You kwazy.

  • Ocean Joe

    August 22, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    Wouldn’t matter if our governor wasn’t running as a moralist.

  • Michael K

    August 23, 2023 at 4:50 am

    Sounds like a guy DeSantis would hire to hasten the destruction of New College or FSU. The more highly unqualified the better his chances so long as he is loyal.

    But I could care less that he rode a bike naked. Live and let live.

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 23, 2023 at 5:17 am

    Lol. Desantis loser again. Same bs Desantis against iis the same bs of his folks. Lol

Comments are closed.


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