What’s a Caucasian Republican to do after two unsuccessful bids for political office in a largely Latino voting district? If your answer is something crazy like “legally change your name to Cesar Chavez,” then you’re probably Scott Fistler… or as he’s now known, Cesar Chavez.
While still using the name Fistler, “Chavez” lost an election for U.S. Congress in 2012 and then another race for City Council in Phoenix the following year. Determined to turn his luck around, Fistler filed for a name change and wrote on the document that he had previously “experienced many hardships because of [his] name.” Presumably, Chavez bets that voters will associate his new name with the original Cesar Chavez, a renowned labor organizer and activist. He is currently seeking a Congressional seat in Arizona’s 7th District.
Since being called out for his attempted ruse, Chavez has gone relatively silent as far as the media is concerned. He claimed he was overwhelmed with questions and said, “There is just simply not enough Cesar Chavez to go around.” Clearly MORE people need to change their names to Cesar Chavez so there is enough to go around. Chavez did make one thing clear, though: he would not be fielding any questions about his name change. Presumably, inquiries about his integrity would also need to be screened.
Sadly, this sort of underhandedness is not unprecedented in American politics. Last November, Dave Wilson, a white conservative won an election by pretending to be African American. Wilson’s campaign flyers and ads all heavily implied that he was black in an effort to appeal to a district comprised largely of African Americans. Wilson has no apologies for his potentially unethical approach. “Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters,” Wilson argued.
Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see whether Chavez’s name change is enough to fool voters, particularly while opposing “fellow” Democrat Mary Rose Wilcox, an actual Latina with a more traditionally Anglo-sounding name. “My husband and I grew up under the leadership of [the real] Cesar Chavez 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.”
There is still a chance that Chavez won’t make it on the ballot. Since Chavez was still a registered Republican when he began collecting signatures to run as a Democrat, that could violate election regulations. “He’s either trying to make a mockery of the system, or of Democrats, or of this Hispanic community,” said DJ Quinlan, head of the Arizona Democratic Party. If there’s a way to prevent Chavez from appearing on the ballot, Democratic Party leaders will likely exercise that option.
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