Mexican-American civil rights icon Cesar Chavez died more than 20 years ago, so it would be nigh impossible for him to run for political office at this point. Nonetheless, the late National Farm Workers Association co-founder’s hallowed name is drawing lots of attention on a current Arizona ballot.
Which may be exactly what a 34-year-old former Republican running for the Seventh Congressional District seat, who changed his name to Cesar Chavez from Scott Fistler in 2013, is counting on.
The politician formerly known as Fistler cited “many hardships” as the reason he needed a new moniker, the Arizona Republic found following a probe. But documents published by the Arizona Capitol Times reveal convenient timing in that “Chavez” filed as a Democratic candidate in February, for the seat that will open when Arizona Representative Ed Pastor retires.
Fistler has already tried twice to run for office in the Phoenix area, both unsuccessful. In 2012, he campaigned as a write-in candidate for Pastor’s Seventh Congressional District seat. In 2013, he ran for a seat on the Phoenix City Council.
The Seventh Congressional District of Arizona has a large Hispanic population. “People want a name that they can feel comfortable with,” Chavez said in an interview with the Arizona Republic. “If you went out there running for office and your name was Bernie Madoff, you’d probably be screwed.”
The two main contenders for Pastor’s seat are Mary Rose Wilcox, a 30-year politician and the first Latina elected to the Phoenix City Council, and Iraq War veteran Ruben Gallego, who currently serves in Arizona state legislature. Wilcox has said that she feels Chavez’s candidacy is in poor taste.
“My husband and I grew up under the leadership of Cesar Chavez [the labor leader] and he means so much to our community,” Wilcox told the Capitol Times. “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.”
The candidate also repurposes photos taken at rallies celebrating not only the former labor leader, but also the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, on his website. “My name is on a lot of popular things,” he told the Arizona Republic.