Tentative Ruling: Candidate May Not Use ‘Chavez’ on the Ballot

An Orange County Superior Court judge has tentatively ruled that Anaheim City Council candidate Steve Lodge can’t use the name “Chavez” on the November ballot because although he was born with the surname, he has not used it in decades.

Anaheim City Hall watcher Cynthia Ward last month filed suit over Lodge’s use of the Latino surname, arguing that it was adopted purely for political gain. The name would likely be more appealing to the city’s Latinos, which constitute more than 50 percent of the city’s population.

Lodge argues that he is indeed known in the community as “Chavez” and that it is on his birth certificate. As a boy, the candidate adopted his stepfather’s name when his mother remarried. However, Lodge never had the name legally changed, he argues in court documents.

Judge Charles Margines has so far agreed with Ward. Margines wrote in his tentative ruling that Lodge, while having been born a “Chavez,” has not used the name in decades. Lodge, who recently moved to the city, filed a candidate statement without the Latino name.

“The overwhelming evidence shows that he [Lodge] has not used ‘Chavez’ as a last name or middle name in any documentable transactions or government filings until August 2012,” the ruling states.

Margine’s tentative ruling also strikes down Lodge’s use of the title “retired policeman” on the ballot. The candidate can’t use the title because as director of public affairs for construction company Hill International, Lodge has a job and is therefore not retired.

Unless Lodge’s attorney can change Margines’ mind at a Tuesday afternoon court hearing, the ruling will stand.

News of the lawsuit drew heavy scrutiny from both sides of the debate and on Orange County’s political blogs. Lodge blasted Ward in bulk emails. He claimed that the “housewife and mother” couldn’t afford to pay for the lawsuit and alleged that the suit is funded by a secret donor. Much of the speculation has assumed labor groups are the funders.

OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano, meanwhile, reported Tuesday morning that Lodge has been the target of multiple lawsuits alleging excessive force while Lodge was a police officer with the Santa Ana Police Department. In a successful case, Lodge was found to have beaten a jaywalker with a baton, resulting in a head injury that required eight stitches, Arellano reported.

Lodge is one of nine candidates vying for two open City Council seats vacated by council members Harry Sidhu and Lorri Galloway, both of whom are termed out. Lodge is one of two candidates — the other being Jordan Brandman, an Anaheim Unified School District trustee — backed and funded by former Mayor Curt Pringle and others in the city’s business establishment.