Yet a complaint filed by Mary Rose Wilcox ally Mike Snitz alleged Gallego never filed the proper application to legally change his name from Marinelarena to Gallego. The complaint argued that because he listed his name as Gallego on nominating petitions, all his signatures are invalid and he should be kept off the primary ballot in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District.
Wilcox issued a statement Wednesday night that she “fully supports” the complaint – which was dismissed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Thursday morning – and called on Gallego “to put his legal surname on the ballot… so everyone has a change to learn about his experiences and who he really is.”
“Anyone running for public office has a responsibility to do so in an open and honest way. My campaign fully supports plaintiff Michael Snitz in this lawsuit because we the people have a right to know who’s running to represent us in Congress,” Wilcox said.
An attorney for Gallego at the time of his name change provided reporters a copy of the Maricopa County Superior Court order, filed in August 2008, which verifies Gallego’s legal name change to Ruben Marinelarena Gallego.
Reached Thursday morning, Wilcox declined to comment and deferred to her campaign spokesman.
While her campaign acknowledged the error, Wilcox refused to apologize for it. A statement issued later Thursday morning blamed the inaccurate lawsuit on an error in Maricopa County court dockets, where Gallego’s former name is misspelled as “Marine Lavena.”
“It appears that Ruben Marinelarena did officially change his name to Ruben Gallego on August 7, 2008. The record of the name change was hidden from the public due to the name having been misspelled as ‘Lavena’ in the Maricopa County court system,” Wilcox said in a statement.
Chris DeRose, who represented Gallego in 2008, said the complaint was nothing more than a “nuisance suit” attempting to garner media attention, and that even a cursory investigation of other records would have uncovered Gallego’s legal name change.
“I’ve got to say, lawyers have an ethical duty to make sure that representations they make in court are accurate. And willful blindness doesn’t count,” DeRose said. “You don’t get to just cover your eyes and say we didn’t know this is wrong.”
In a statement, Gallego, a former state representative who resigned to run for Congress this spring, said he’s been open about the circumstances that led him to decide to change his name. Those included his mother’s experience raising him and his three sisters alone after his father, whose last name is Marinelarena, left them.
“My mom is the reason I have had so many incredible opportunities in my life. I’m very proud to have her name,” Gallego said.
Gallego’s mother, Elisa, said Thursday that she “couldn’t be prouder of my son” and his decision to change his name.
“Ruben changed his name because he wanted to honor his grandfather who was a hard working immigrant,” Elisa said in a statement. “He also wanted to honor me a single mom, who like millions of single moms out there sacrifice ourselves so that our children can have a better life than we did.”
The Wilcox press release, headlined “Yet another name change controversy in Congressional District 7,” attempted to draw a correlation between Gallego and candidate Cesar Chavez, formerly Scott Fistler, who changed his name in December and his party affiliation in April following two unsuccessful bids for elected office as a Republican.
A separate legal challenge – which Wilcox noted was filed by a Gallego ally – alleges Chavez did so to interfere with the CD7 election by confusing voters, a corruption of electors in violation of A.R.S. 16-1014.
“I am not trying to push anyone off the ballot, and I am not hiding behind lawsuits filed by others,” Wilcox said Wednesday.
Gallego shot back, calling the not-so-subtle comparison Wilcox campaign’s way of “playing politics.”
“I took my mom’s name because she made me who I am… I don’t think Scott Fistler can say that about Cesar Chavez,” Gallego said.