Sham Cesar Chavez candidate demonstrates the importance of partisans

02 Jun 2014 07:35 pm
Posted by: Donna

The candidate named Cesar Chavez, running in the Congressional primary in AZ CD7, has been revealed to be a guy formerly named Scott Fistler who was a Republican until recently and had sought other offices in the past as a member of that party.

After petitioning a state superior court last November and paying $319, Fistler now legally shares the name of the celebrated labor movement icon, Cesar Chavez. Earlier this year, Chavez (formerly Fistler) became a Democrat, and – before Ed Pastor announced his retirement from Congress – filed to run in the heavily Hispanic 7th Congressional District.

In his petition for a name change, Fistler wrote that he had “experienced many hardships because of my name.”

It’s unclear at this point whether this guy is a lone wolf or someone who was recruited to act as a spoiler – a la Olivia Cortes in the 2011 Russell Pearce recall. Either way, he’s a sham candidate and such candidacies are an affront to democracy and the community and (even more reprehensibly) often exploitive of highly vulnerable people, even if the candidates (or whoever puts them up to it) follow the letter of the law to qualify for the ballot. Chavez (nee Fistler) managed to get the maximum number of signatures and the state Dem party is exploring what options they have, if any, to remove him from the ballot.

It looks doubtful that the Dems will be able to remove him but it’s highly unlikely that Chavez will win the nomination or even act as a spoiler and that’s thanks to the presence of watchful Democratic partisan activists. Much as certain AZ Republic columnists and others disdain parties and insist that “independents” are the key to a moderate utopia, we yucky-poo partisans really do serve a valuable function in elections that simply cannot be fulfilled by people who don’t pay the kind of attention we do to who’s running. It is Democratic volunteers, not “independents”, who will make the necessary door knocks and phone calls to alert voters to a sham candidate.

And people who support a top two, or “jungle primary”, should take note: Such a system provides many more opportunities to shady operatives to put up sham candidates, and they’ll often have so-called “dark money” to help them pull it off. I can’t speak to the AZ GOP, which doesn’t appear to be a functional organization, but the AZ Dem party (which includes county parties as well as the state) has been an effective safeguard against several fraudulent candidates. Think really hard about whether you want to make a sweeping change to the election system that diminishes the ability of the party to do that.

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