PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona congressional candidate who legally changed his name to Cesar Chavez will be removed from the Democratic primary ballot because of invalid nomination signatures, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge John Rea ruled that almost half of the nearly 1,500 signatures gathered by the candidate formerly known as Scott Fistler to get on the Aug. 26 ballot were invalid.
That put him 295 signatures shy of the 1,039 needed to qualify. Chavez, who acted as his own attorney during Tuesday's hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court, has until June 27 to appeal and said he will do so.
Chavez changed his name to that of the late farm labor leader in December and switched party affiliations in April.
"I wanted a simple, easy name to pronounce. A name that people could say and could easily recognize," he said.
He previously lost two previous bids for elected office as a Republican. Fistler ran a write-in campaign against U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor in 2012 and ran against Pastor's daughter, Laura, for a seat on the Phoenix City Council last year.
Now, with the name Chavez, he is seeking a seat in the heavily Hispanic and heavily Democratic 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Phoenix and Glendale.
Alejandro Chavez, the grandson of the former activist, filed a legal complaint alleging the candidate got signatures from people who aren't qualified to vote in the 7th District, changed his name to mislead voters and failed to register as a Democrat before collecting signatures.
"This is an attempt to fool voters," said Alejandro Chavez, adding that the name change is "a slap in the face to everybody who joined a march or a picket line" with his grandfather, who died in San Luis, Arizona, in 1993 at age 66.
The Maricopa County Elections Office determined the petition signers weren't eligible to vote in the primary because they weren't registered to vote, didn't live in the district, or weren't Democrats or independents.