Cesar Chavez is running for Congress.
No, not the legendary Mexican-American labor leader from Arizona. The Cesar Chavez running for Congress in the Phoenix area is a guy who changed his name to Cesar Chavez, the Arizona Republic discovered.
Chavez managed to turn in nearly 1,500 signatures to get on the ballot in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 7, in the election to replace retiring Congressman Ed Pastor.
The Republic found that just a few years ago, "Cesar Chavez" was Scott Fistler, who ran for the CD-7 seat as a Republican write-in candidate in 2012, landing a grand total of 116 votes.
You can imagine the nightmare for everyone involved if enough uninformed voters in CD-7, a heavily Democratic district, were to pick Chavez, as a name they recognize.
Everything about his campaign appears to be illegitimate, as the Republic reports that Chavez/Fistler has no campaign staff or endorsements. From the Republic:
He plagiarized an answer to a Republic policy questionnaire and used copyrighted photos on his website. Two show a crowd in red T-shirts printed with "Chavez," and another depicts a parade group waving Mexican and American flags. "Supporters ready to canvas the South Mountain neighborhood," reads one website caption.
A Google image search reveals different origins. The crowds were photographed at a 2006 Venezuelan rally for then-President Hugo Chavez. The parade was held in Kansas to honor civil-rights leader Chavez.
Here are those images, with Chavez/Fistler's website on the left, and a news report on the right:
We've reached out to the campaigns of a couple legitimate candidates, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, and former Representative Ruben Gallego, to get a reaction to this. We'll update this post when we get a response.
The Arizona Capitol Times has a little more on the story, including "Chavez" saying he won't be taking any more media questions, and when he eventually does, he won't be talking about his name change.
UPDATE 12:55 p.m.: Gallego tells us his camp's not worried about the Chavez threat, especially without knowing at this point if Chavez is even going to make it onto the ballot.
UPDATE June 4: We didn't hear back from Wilcox's campaign. In addition to the comments from Gallego, his campaign sent out the following e-mail to followers, from National Farm Workers Association co-founder Dolores Huerta:
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I endorsed Ruben because he's a rising star who has proven himself as a leader in government and the Latino community. He has the energy, intelligence and passion to advance the cause of working families, the same cause I've been a part of since co-founding the United Farm Workers with Cesar Estrada Chavez.
During the early days of our work, we envisioned having young and passionate advocates like Ruben to carry on our fight. We didn't envision a Republican changing his name to "Cesar Chavez" to try to deceive voters.
If you were as shocked by this news as I was, I hope you'll contribute to Ruben's campaign today.
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. Voters are too smart to believe this disguise, but we need to take a stand against such disrespectful behavior.
I don't typically send out fundraising emails, but this is so outrageous that it only makes me more determined to see Ruben win this race and carry on our fight for working people.
Ruben has an army of young organizers and he has the dedication and passion that Arizonans deserve from a public servant. But he needs the resources to win, and I hope you'll help him by donating to his campaign today.
We can't let this outrageous attempt to deceive voters stand. Please contribute to Ruben's campaign today.
Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.