Name game continues in battle for congressional seat

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The name game continues in the battle for a congressional seat in Arizona.

First, it was a candidate calling himself "Cesar Chavez." Now, a blame game is underway from another candidate who took Ruben Gallego to task for changing his name.

Congressional candidate Scott Fistler changed his name to Cesar Chavez and it didn't take long before his opponents slammed him for taking the name of a civil rights leader in the heavily Hispanic 7th Congressional District.

"Voting is a right and it is a strong right for all Americans and to play games with it is an affront to the community," Mary Rose Wilcox said.

Now, Wilcox is the one being accused of playing political games after trying to get another opponent kicked off the ballot.

"I don't know why they're trying to make this an issue," Gallego said.

The issue is Gallego's name. A lawsuit filed by a Wilcox supporter Thursday morning accuses Gallego of deceiving the public by using a false name.

"It's silly," Gallego said. "It's very simple. I took my mom's name. She raised me. She made me the man that I am and I wanted to honor her."

Gallego was born Ruben Marinelarena but changed it in 2008, shortly before getting elected to the state Legislature.

Unlike Fistler, Gallego said the decision wasn't political. It was personal.

"My father basically had nothing to do with my upbringing," Gallego said. "He left my family. I had to step up and be the man of the family."

Gallego described his father as a "terrible person" who left his mother to raise four kids on her own.

"I'm glad he left," Gallego said. "He was very abusive to me, to my family, both verbally and physically. He was a troublemaker."

The lawsuit was withdrawn several hours after it was filed with a statement from Wilcox blaming court records for making the false allegation.

"The record of the name change was hidden from the public due to the name having been misspelled as 'Lavena' in the Maricopa County court system," the statement said.

Gallego didn't expect an apology from Wilcox but said she owes one to his mother.

"This has been a very difficult thing to bring up," he said. Growing up in a family with abuse isn't easy."

Gallego's mother did not want to speak with 3TV on camera, saying she was too shy. However, off camera she said that a couple of her daughters have also changed their last name to Gallego and a third one is in the process of doing so.


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Rep. Gallego resigning from Arizona House

Mary Rose Wilcox to run for congressional seat