The name is Steven, Steven Chavez Lodge -- or is it? A recent lawsuit filed by political blogger Cynthia Ward alleges that Lodge, a retired policeman who is currently running for city council in Anaheim, California, is using a Latino name for political gain.
"The name he's given for his ballot is Steve Chavez Lodge. But he's been known as Steve Lodge in a lot of the documents that I've seen for years," Ward told local TV station KABC. "I've found him going by Steve Lodge from as far back as at least high school."
Ward's writ of mandate, filed this week, requests that Lodge be barred from using the name “Chavez.” Since it is not his real name, according to the petition, it is "false, misleading and illegal" to use the fake name in the campaign, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Including "Chavez" on the ballot could be a boon for Lodge who seeks to represent a constituency that is more than 50 percent Latino. Despite the city's Latino majority, there have only been three Latinos to serve on the council in Anaheim's 150-year history -- two of which were former firefighters elected shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. The mostly white Anaheim City Council recently shot down a proposal to create voting districts, seeking to increase Latino representation in the community.
Lodge is contesting the suit, holding that the name on his birth certificate is Steven Albert Chavez. Lodge told the LA Times that he uses both names -- Chavez, his given name and Lodge, his stepfather's name.
"I'm very proud of my heritage and my ethnicity and nobody can take who I am away from me," Lodge told local TV station KABC.
Despite, his assurances that Chavez is the name on his birth certificate, Lodge has failed to include the name in his campaign contributions and on his voter registration. Since Anaheim vital records are only available to authorized individuals, the OC Weekly looked to Lodge's brother, sportscaster Roger Lodge, whose given name is Rogelio Chavez. His bio explains that their biological father left when Roger was 3, and that their mother later married Robert Lodge, who became a father to they boys and their two siblings.
While Lodge's intentions of appealing to the constituents he seeks to represent may actually be innocent, Orange County residents like Ward have good reason to be suspicious of Lodge's use of Chavez since political candidates have pulled similar name additions in the past.
After failing to gain a seat on the Anaheim City Council in 1994, Loretta Brixey substituted Sanchez for her last name in a successful 1996 congressional campaign. More recently, former Capistrano School Board member Ken Maddox adopted his wife's surname, Lopez, to further his political ambitions.
This latest debate out of Anaheim, a 350,000-person city known chiefly as a family-friendly tourist destination, is just one example of the racial tension that has been bubbling over following two fatal police shootings of Latino men.
If Ward's suit is successful, a judge would grant a court order disallowing Lodge from using Chavez in his campaign. However, Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said that candidates don't need to use their legal names on the ballot; they must only show that their ballot name is how they are known in the community, even if it is a nickname.
"If people are known that way in the community or can prove that they are known that way ... then it's generally accepted," he told the LA Times.
An ex parte hearing in the case is scheduled to take place Thursday, according to court records.
Lodge took to Facebook before the scheduled hearing and posted this update with a link to the LA Times story and a photo of himself holding what appears to be a court summons on his "Steve Lodge for Anaheim 2012" page.
"I’ve seen frivolous lawsuits but this takes the cake. I actually have to defend myself in OC Superior Court for the use of my own name," Lodge wrote in the Facebook post.
The outcome of the hearing could not be confirmed at the time this story was published.
Watch the video above for KABC's coverage of the story.
UPDATE: Ward confirmed to The Huffington Post that Thursday’s hearing was a matter of scheduling a future court date.
She explained she has nothing to gain from filing the lawsuit and is not working with any other candidates running for the two open city council seats.
“This isn't about race. I don't want anything to think it has ever been. I'm just looking for accuracy,” Ward said.
She would like the court to determine whether or not Lodge should use Chavez in his campaign, since the surname, which would be featured at the top of the alphabetically ordered ballot, would give him an edge over the competition, unlike a nickname.
“It's not my opinion. It's the law,” she concluded.