Cesar Chavez is running for Congress.
The labor activist didn’t come back from the dead, nor is a man born with the same name seeking election. Scott Fistler, a failed Republican politician who ran unsuccessfully for Phoenix City Council in 2013 and only garnered 116 votes as a write-in candidate for the 7th Congressional District in 2012, changed his name in November before announcing his intentions to run for the congressional seat again.
Fistler also changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, but there’s no evidence that his views changed along party lines. Instead, this seems like a flawed and ultimately disrespectful attempt to curry favor with the district’s Latino population.
The 7th Congressional District includes large sections of Phoenix and Glendale, and 56 percent of its population is Hispanic. When Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., who’s represented the area in Congress since 2003, announced his retirement earlier this year, it seemed clear that the consistently liberal district would go to one of two leading state Latino Democrats.
Mary Rose Wilcox, who serves on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and was previously on the Phoenix City Council, has been involved with the district’s community for years and lists goals of passing the DREAM Act and reforming the U.S.’s immigration and deportation policies.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, has served in the Arizona Legislature since 2010 and worked as assistant minority leader. His wife, Kate, handily beat Fistler for a seat on the Phoenix City Council last year.
The 7th Congressional District belongs to people like Wilcox and Gallego who represent the majority of its population. When rumors began circulating after Pastor announced his retirement that freshman Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., might campaign for his vacated seat, a group of community leaders wrote her an open letter urging her to stay in her own district.
Sinema represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes Tempe and much of Phoenix. Her politics align closely with Pastor’s, but she wouldn’t have been the right choice for the district.
Fistler, meanwhile, doesn’t even have that going for him. His campaign website is extremely barebones — he claims to be on a “much needed break” until June 15 — and, according to The Arizona Republic, it featured photos from a rally for former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and a parade in Kansas in honor of the real Cesar Chavez. Each of these photos were described as Fistler’s supporters getting ready to canvas streets in South Phoenix.
The photos are gone now, but his site features a logo from the 2014 Chavez biopic. It’s just as embarrassing, if not more so, than the independent candidate for governor who chose to poorly photoshop himself in front of the state Capitol.
A lawsuit filed on Tuesday states that Fistler deliberately tried to mislead voters with his name and party change.
Voters in the 7th Congressional District aren’t dumb enough to fall for Fistler’s attempts to align himself with a community hero, but it’s still underhanded to co-op another person’s name and legacy.
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