Cesar Chavez running for Congress in Arizona? It appears so

Labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez passed away more than 20 years ago. But his name recently appeared as one of the candidates…

Scott Fistler recently changed his name to Cesar Chavez in what appears as an attempt to be more competitive in the Arizona congressional race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor. (Photo credit: Tea Party Cheer)

Labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez passed away more than 20 years ago. But his name recently appeared as one of the candidates running to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor in Arizona.

Turns out the person behind the name is Scott Fistler, a 34-year-old unemployed military veteran who filed a name-change petition with the Maricopa County Superior Court last November. He wrote in the petition that he had “experienced many hardships because of my name” and wanted to change his name to Cesar Chavez.

“It’s almost as simple as saying Elvis Presley is running for president,” he said in a recent phone interview with The Arizona Republic, explaining his decision to change his name. “You wouldn’t forget it, would you?”

SEE ALSO: Contenders emerge for congressional seat being vacated by Ed Pastor

His name is not all Fistler changed. The Arizona Capitol Times reported he also switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat before Pastor announced he would not seek reelection in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, where Latinos make up about 66 percent of the population. The district covers much of Phoenix and stretches into the communities of Glendale, Guadalupe and Tolleson.

Fistler changes name to improve chances of winning

This is not the first time Fistler runs for Pastor’s seat. In 2012, he ran as a write-in candidate against Pastor but only picked up 116 votes.

Cesar Chavez fought to improve the treatment of farm workers.

The real Cesar Chavez fought to improve the treatment of farm workers. (AP Photo/Alan Greth)

Now, it appears Fistler changed his name and party affiliation to have a better shot at competing in the race for Pastor’s seat.

“People want a name that they can feel comfortable with,” Chavez told The Arizona Republic. “If you went out there running for office and your name was Bernie Madoff, you’d probably be screwed.”

But winning won’t be easy. He faces five other Democratic candidates running to replace Pastor, who is stepping down after serving more than two decades in Congress.

Among the candidates are two prominent Latino politicians: Mary Rose Wilcox, who has served on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for more than 20 years, and state Rep. Ruben Gallego, a 34-year-old Iraq War veteran and Harvard University grad who has been serving on the Arizona State Legislature since 2011.

A visit to the Cesar Chavez for Congress website shows very little text and several photos, including one of demonstrators holding a “Viva Chávez!” sign and the farm workers’ flag designed by Chavez and other labor leaders in 1962. The caption reads: “Ready to canvas the South Mountain neighborhood.”

SEE ALSO: Dreamers in Arizona back immigration attorney running for Congress

But that’s not all. The website also shows photos of people rallying for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. “We love you Chavez,” reads one of the captions.

Dolores Huerta reacts to Fistler’s name change

Fistler’s move to change his name and run for Congress as Cesar Chavez got the attention of Dolores Huerta, a labor leader and civil rights activist who joined Chavez in the early 1960s to form the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers.

Huerta endorsed Gallego for Congress in March. In a fundraising email sent to Gallego supporters on Tuesday, Huerta said she was “shocked” to hear Fistler changed his name to Cesar Chavez and accused him of trying to “deceive voters.”

“Since Cesar’s death, we’ve seen a lot of people try to co-opt his legacy, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” Huerta said. “Voters are too smart to believe this disguise, but we need to take a stand against such disrespectful behavior.”

Latino leaders from Arizona agreed with Huerta that Fistler’s name change won’t fool many voters. Nonetheless, it sure is helping him get attention.

Fistler told the Arizona Capitol Times in an email that he could not respond to requests for comment because he was “flooded with calls and emails” about his campaign.

“There is just simply not enough Cesar Chavez to go around,” he wrote in the email.

SEE ALSO: Supporters hope film on Cesar Chavez will inspire others

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