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Ariz. Candidate Changes Name to 'Cesar Chavez,' but Will It Work?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on June 06, 2014 11:23 AM

In politics, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again ... and maybe change your name to Cesar Chavez?

That's the tactic being employed by one Arizona congressional candidate, who came up short in previous runs for political office under his given name Scott Fistler.

What's the story behind Cesar Chavez (the candidate, not the legendary labor activist) and can you really change your name to Cesar Chavez just to try to win an election?

Cesar Chavez 2.0

According to The Arizona Republic, when Chavez's name was added to the list of candidates vying for Arizona's 7th District Congressional seat, no one really knew who he was or where he came from.

But Chavez turned out to be the new name for Scott Fistler, who ran as a Republican write-in candidate in 2012 in the same district and later ran unsuccessfully for Phoenix City Council.

After switching names (and political parties -- he's now a Democrat), Cesar Chavez is hoping for a stronger showing this time around. Although the reason why Fistler would change his name to Cesar Chavez -- also the name of noted the civil rights activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers of America -- in a heavily Hispanic district is pretty clear, you may be wondering: Can he legally do that?

Legally Changing Your Name

Generally speaking, anyone can petition to have their name legally changed for a wide variety of reasons, from getting married and taking their spouse's name to just wanting a change of pace.

In Chavez's case, the paperwork he filed with Maricopa County to get his name changed noted that he had "experienced many hardships" due to his former name.

There are, however, a few reasons why you can't change your name, such as to escape criminal charges or to commit a crime, to hide from debt, or to purposely offend people. There are also limitations to what you can change your name to. You can't typically include numerals or punctuation, and you can't change your name to a racial slur or other obscene word.

Courts will sometimes deny a name change if that name being sought is associated with a famous person absent a convincing reason, but in this case, the Arizona court apparently found Cesar Chavez to be acceptable.

With new name in tow, Chavez is now free to continue his pursuit of political office. He will know by June 11, the deadline for challenging candidates, if his name will appear on the primary election ballot in August.

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