Cesar Chavez' Grandson Sues Name-Changing Arizona Candidate

Thursday, 12 Jun 2014 08:36 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The grandson of famed migrant organizer Cesar Chavez is suing a man who renamed himself after the Mexican-American civil rights leader to run for Congress in Arizona's 7th district.

Alejandro Chavez this week filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court to challenge the candidacy of the former Scott Fistler, who not only legally changed his name but his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat to seek election, reports The Washington Post.

"It's almost as simple as saying Elvis Presley is running for president," Fistler/Chavez told the Arizona Republic. "You wouldn't forget it, would you? People want a name that they can feel comfortable with. If you went out there running for office and your name was Bernie Madoff, you'd probably be screwed."

The original Cesar Chavez' grandson lives in the predominantly Hispanic 7th district, and hopes to get Fistler/Chavez dumped from the ballot before the primary election, set for Aug. 26.

"What drew the attention of Alejandro was Scott Fistler sort of cynically changing his name to Cesar Chavez," attorney Jim Barton told the Post. "We wanted to basically call out what we saw as an effort to confuse the voters."

Alejandro Chavez and Barton are also challenging the 1,455 signatures on Fistler/Chavez' petition to run for office, along with signatures he collected before changing his party. To qualify for the primary ballot, a candidate must have at least 1,039 valid signatures, reports the Post.

Fistler/Chavez is an underdog in the race that is pitting several Democratic contenders who hope to take over retiring Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor's seat. Pastor, who is Arizona's first Latino congressman, was first elected to the House in 1991 and won re-election in 2012, defeating the then-named Fistler, who was a Republican write-in candidate, and Libertarian Joe Cobb.

Ironically, Fistler/Chavez' main competition in the Democratic primary are both Hispanics who have actual connections to the original Cesar Chavez, who died in 1993, reports the Republic.

Mary Rose Wilcox, who has been in office for more than 30 years, was the first Latina elected for the Phoenix City Council and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The candidate has no money, no endorsements and no paid campaign staff. She marched with Chavez in the 1970s and helped him start Radio Campesina, a Phoenix Spanish-language station.

The other major candidate, Ruben Gallego, 34, is a Harvard University graduate and Iraq War veteran who has been in the state Legislature since 2011. He has been officially endorsed by Dolores Huerta, who partnered with Chavez to found the National Farmworkers Association.

Fistler/Chavez filed campaign paperwork two weeks before Pastor announced his retirement in February, but the filing lists no staff or fundraising and he has not yet held a public campaign event.

But he's not worried that people won't recognize his new name, which is on high schools, parks, and other public facilities all through the district.

"My name is on a lot of popular things," he told the Republic.

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