A lawsuit filed this week claims that Anaheim City Council candidate Steve Chavez Lodge should not be able to have his middle name of “Chavez” on the November ballot because it’s not his real name.
The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court by Anaheim resident and City Hall-watcher and political blogger Cynthia Ward, alleges that Lodge’s legal name doesn’t include Chavez and that he owns property and is registered to vote without the middle name.
“Rather, the use of the name ‘Chavez’ appears to have been adopted recently for political purposes,” Ward's lawsuit states.
The suit also contends that Lodge can’t list himself on the ballot as a retired police officer because he is currently director of public affairs at Hill International, a construction management firm. The reasoning goes that the word “retired” under the elections code can’t be used if the candidate has a job.
“In researching Council candidate Steve Lodge in an effort to determine who he is and what makes him tick, I found some issues that I simply did not want to let pass,” Ward wrote in an upcoming blog post.
At stake is a ballot designation that could be more appealing to the city’s Latino voters. While the city is more than 50 percent Latino, none of the current council members are Latino, with the only possible exception being Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, who claims to be half Latina because of her father’s Spanish heritage.
The disparity in representation is the subject of another lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and a group of Latino activists. That lawsuit contends that the at-large City Council elections prevent Latinos from fielding a successful candidate.
There are two open council seats by virtue of Galloway and Councilman Harry Sidhu being termed out. Lodge is considered one of two candidates who are heavily backed by the city’s political establishment. The other candidate is school board trustee Jordan Brandman.
Other candidates include John Leos, a Republican backed by the Orange County Employees Association, and Lucille Kring, who is a former councilwoman.
Lodge said that he was born Steven Albert Chavez. After his mother remarried and assumed her husband's surname, Lodge, she changed her son’s surname to Lodge also.
“It [Lodge] became legal when I joined the military. But I’ve always used Chavez,” Lodge said.
Candidates needn't use their legal names on the ballot, according to Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley. The candidate must only show that the ballot designation is how the candidate is known in the community, Kelley said.
The rule of thumb can even apply to nicknames.
A case in point is Huntington Beach resident Norm “Firecracker” Westwell. The resident ran in past elections with the nickname “Firecracker” on the ballot.
The suit asserts that according to property records, the candidate’s name is listed as Steven A. Lodge, and he has made campaign contributions without using “Chavez.”
However, Kelley says that if a candidate was born with a surname but changed it later, the judge is likely to weigh that fact heavily in the candidate’s favor.