An Arizona congressional candidate who changed his name to Cesar Chavez to run for a House seat representing a majority-Hispanic district was thrown off the ballot by a judge on Tuesday.
“Chavez,” whose birth name was Scott Fistler, ran unsuccessfully for the Phoenix-based seat in 2012 as a Republican candidate. A year after losing, he legally switched his name to that of the prominent Hispanic labor leader, then registered as a Democrat. His bizarre bid for office, considered by many to be a deceitful attempt to win voters based on name-recognition, attracted national attention.
But the name-changing candidate’s second bid for office was dashed today in Maricopa County Superior Court, where Judge John Rea ruled he could not appear on the Democratic primary ballot because more than 700 signatures on his nomination petition were invalid, a court spokesperson confirmed to Fusion.
The ruling is considered a victory for Alejandro Chavez, the grandson of the labor icon, who filed a lawsuit last week to boot the self-styled “Chavez” from the ballot. The suit alleged that the candidate had collected hundreds of invalid signatures, missed the deadline to switch party affiliations, and was running a sham candidacy to deliberately confuse voters. Rea rejected the party registration charge and Alejandro Chavez’s attorney dropped the complaint that the name-change was part of a plot to distort voters.
Ruben Gallego, a former state representative and leading candidate in the race, also could benefit from Chavez’s ballet ouster. Some Democrats worried that “Chavez” could have siphoned votes away from the frontrunner in the hotly contested primary, which will be decided on August 26. The law firm representing the labor leader’s grandson, Torres Consulting and Law Group, has ties to unions that have endorsed Gallego.
Tuesday’s ruling is a blow for “Chavez,” who recently told The Arizona Republic that his campaign was “too legit to quit.” He vowed to challenge the judge’s ruling, and has until June 27 to file an appeal, the court spokesperson said.
“Chavez” told reporters that he changed his name because of athletes and dog food — and not to mimic the labor leader.
Oddly enough, Chavez’s name-changing controversy wasn’t the only one to make headlines during the campaign.
An ally of Mary Rose Wilcox, Gallego’s chief opponent, filed a lawsuit arguing that Gallego’s name should be changed on the ballot because he was improperly appropriating his mother’s surname. Wilcox backed the suit, saying that “voters have a right to know who a candidate really is.”
But the gambit backfired. The suit was withdrawn when Gallego proved that he legally changed his name in 2008 to honor his mother. His father, whose last name is Marinelarena, left the family when Gallego was 11 years old.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.