Scott Fistler didn’t have much luck as a Republican candidate. He lost a 2012 write-in campaign against U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, then lost a 2013 bid for a Phoenix city council seat now held by Laura Pastor, Ed’s daughter.
All that could change, though, just like Fistler’s name and party registration.
After petitioning a state Superior Court last November and paying $319, Fistler now legally shares the name of the celebrated labor movement icon, Cesar Chavez. Earlier this year, Chavez (formerly Fistler) became a Democrat, and – before Ed Pastor announced his retirement from Congress – filed to run in the heavily Hispanic 7th Congressional District.
In his petition for a name change, Fistler wrote that he had “experienced many hardships because of my name.”
Chavez did not respond to requests for a comment, other than to email the Arizona Capitol Times to say that because of how “flooded with calls and emails” his campaign has been, he is taking a break from media queries.
“There is just simply not enough Cesar Chavez to go around,” he wrote. “We may resume questions starting May 10 [sic].”
Chavez did lay out some ground rules for media questions, should he be able to get to them. Questions must be screened, no more than five questions, no question longer than five words and Chavez will not discuss his name change, he explained in the email.
But the iconic labor leader isn’t even the only Chavez whose name is being used by the local Chavez campaign. The Chavez for Congress website is covered in photos showing demonstrators rallying for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The name “Chavez” can be seen on balloons, signs and t-shirts of activists in the photos, which have mostly been lifted from Venezuelan news reports. They’re followed by captions like “Supporters: ‘We love you Chavez’” and “Sign: Vote for Chavez 2014.”
Chavistas se preparan para lo peor (AFP News Agency, Jan. 2013):
One 2006 photo shows a march celebrating Cesar Chavez (the labor leader) in downtown Wichita, Kansas, with the caption “Supporters: Ready to canvas the South Mountain neighborhood,” which is in south Phoenix.
“I think that’s really poor taste,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a fellow Democrat who is also running to succeed Pastor in CD7.
“My husband and I grew up under the leadership of Cesar Chavez (the labor leader) and he means so much to our community,” Wilcox said. “Voters aren’t going to be fooled. If he thinks he can fool them, it’s a real affront to the community. He should be ashamed.”
Maduro brandishes Chavez poster in campaign rally (AFP News Agency, April 2013):
Alejandro Chavez, the grandson of the famed labor leader, said he has come across people who try to use his grandfather’s name for personal gain before.
“The people who do carry on his legacy shine. Those who try to ride his coattails for a political agenda, it’s apparent. You just kind of have to brush it off,” Alejandro Chavez said. “If we spent out time going after this sort of thing, we wouldn’t have time to carry on his legacy through the Cesar Chavez Foundation, which provides real help to Latino families and farmers.”
But Chavez (formerly Fistler) may have to overcome more than just disparaging remarks from the family and friends of Chavez (the labor leader).
Because of the timing of his various state and federal campaign filings, as well as the timing of his party registration change, Chavez may have his candidacy challenged by the state Democratic Party, where top officials see him as anything but a legitimate candidate.
According to voter records, Chavez didn’t become a Democrat until April 28, even though he filed his congressional statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission in February. On the form, Chavez wrote “DEM” in the Candidate Party Affiliation field.
Arizona Democratic Party chairman DJ Quinlan said he and others at the Party have been looking into Chavez. He said someone claiming to represent the candidate has called the Party repeatedly, asking to have him listed on their website as a Democratic candidate in CD7.
“He’s either trying to make a mockery of the system, or of Democrats, or of the Hispanic community,” Quinlan said.
“There are two questions: Is it a problem for the FEC that he said he was a Democrat when he wasn’t?” Quinlan said. “And is it a problem for the state if he was collecting signatures to run in a Democratic primary while he was a Republican?”
Quinlan said the Party’s legal team is still reviewing the circumstances to determine whether a legal challenge will be brought.