By Chris Hoenig
Scott Fistler has twice lost elections as a GOP candidate in Arizona. Cesar Chavez is hoping he has a better fate in a Democratic race for one of the state's congressional seats.
The two men are one and the same. Confused?
After losing a 2012 congressional bid to U.S. Representative Ed Pastor and a Phoenix city-council election last year, Fistler—a 34-year-old white guy from Phoenix—changed his name and party affiliation in preparation for this year's congressional election.
The former Scott Fistler is now Cesar Chavez—yes, just like the labor leader and civil-rights activist—and a Democrat. And it's no coincidence that the area he's running to represent—Arizona's 7th Congressional district—is mostly Latino.
Fistler paid a $319 fee and successfully petitioned the state Superior Court last year to make his name change legal, claiming he had "experienced many hardships" because of his name. He filed his papers to run as a Democrat in February—even though he didn't officially change his party affiliation until April.
"It's almost as simple as saying Elvis Presley is running for President," Chavez told The Arizona Republic in a phone interview. "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."
Chavez's Spanish-language campaign website—a free blogspot.com URL—contains pictures clearly designed to deceive voters, with cleverly positioned captions to make people believe something is happening in the nearby photos that is untrue.
Most of the pictures have been taken from Venezuelan media, showing rallies supporting President Hugo Chavez. Beneath are lines that read "Supporters: 'We love you Chavez'" and "Sign: Vote for Chavez 2014."
One particular picture, taken without credit from The Wichita Eagle, shows marchers at a 2006 Wichita, Kans., rally and parade in honor of the late labor leader Cesar Chavez … the one who existed before 2006. But underneath the picture on this Chavez's campaign site is a caption, "Supporters: Ready to canvas the South Mountain neighborhood." There does not appear to be a South Mountain neighborhood in Wichita—but there is in Phoenix.
"He's either trying to make a mockery of the system, or of Democrats, or of the Hispanic community," Arizona Democratic Party Chairman D.J. Quinlan told the Arizona Capitol Times. "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?"
On Twitter, Quinlan told one user that he wished it was a joke, quipping that it "seems to be part of the GOP's Hispanic outreach program."
.@johnron @EvanWyloge Wish it was a joke. This seems to be part of the GOP's Hispanic outreach program. #
— DJ Quinlan (@djquinlan) June 2, 2014
The family of the late labor leader said this new candidate is not the first to try to take advantage of the notable Chavez, and probably won't be the last.
"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, Cesar Chavez's grandson, 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."