Name Change: Candidates Ditch Their Birth-Names, Run for Office on Made-Up Names

Two House candidates are running under names they created themselves.

November 6, 2012, 1:23 AM

Nov. 6, 2012 -- At opposite ends of the country, two House candidates, with vastly different agendas, are running under names they made up themselves.

Voters in South Florida's 25th Congressional District will see an unfamiliar option on congressional ballots today: 32-year-old first-time candidate VoteForEddie.Com. Voters in Idaho's 1st Congressional District, meanwhile, will see a familiar choice: 72-year-old strawberry farmer "Pro-Life," who is making his fourth consecutive bid for major office.

They are the only two candidates running for federal office under such irregular names, according to the Associated Press list of nationwide candidates. They've undergone the legal name-changing ordeal, they say, with very different goals in mind.

Running against incumbent GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, 32-year-old Eddie Gonzalez thought he might have a better chance with a catchier name, one that could draw a few headlines and some Web traffic along with them. In early January, the candidate says, he legally changed his name to "" and collected more than 2,300 signatures to qualify on the ballot as a party-unaffiliated House candidate. Although he still goes by Eddie, the Florida secretary of State's office confirms that his name will appear as "VoteForEddie.Com" on ballots.

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For VoteForEddie.Com, the point was getting on the ballot and launching a political career.

"My campaign wouldn't have been able to raise enough money, let alone send a flyer," told ABC News. His family supported the decision, he said: "My parents thought it was incredibly original, and that it was impressive how much play an independent candidate can generate just by taking a unique approach to getting his name on the ballot."

A series of national interviews have made the change worth it. Eddie is pushing for a national energy policy to lower gas prices and lower oil-company profits, and he's proposed a tax cut for first-responders, a measure he believes could succeed at a local or state level. If his congressional bid fails, Eddie said he may run for city council or state rep. The name likely isn't permanent -- it depends on the election.

"If I am lucky enough to be elected, I will not be elected as VoteForEddie.Com. I would more than likely go back to Edmund Gonzalez," he told ABC News last month. This weekend, though, he wasn't so sure. "I'm gonna wait and see, because maybe enough voters actually like the fact that I'm completely different."

"Pro-Life" on the other hand, has been at this for a while.

The man formerly known as Marvin Richardson says he's been an anti-abortion activist for years, and that he first changed his middle name to "Pro-Life" in 2004, inspired by another anti-abortion activist who used the same name.

"The reason I did this was maybe because 'Pro-Life' Anderson -- he and I were friends. I watched him run for lieutenant governor. He was kind of a flamboyant guy. I'm not necessarily trying to be flamboyant. My whole reason that I do what I do is to make people accountable for hearing the truth, because I believe there's a great judgment where we'll all be judged -- that's what we're told in Scripture … so if people don't hear that abortion is murder, then they can't be judged for that."

Pro-Life "Andy" Anderson died in 2011 at the age of 84. He ran and lost in the Nevada GOP primary for lieutenant governor in 1990.

Unlike VoteForEddie.Com, Pro-Life isn't trying to launch a political career. He ran for state legislature in 2004, governor in 2006, U.S. Senate in 2008, and governor again in 2010. This year marks his first bid for Congress as he seeks one of Idaho's two House seats.

Nor does Pro-Life want to drive Web traffic, in particular. As a strawberry farmer outside Boise, he doesn't have much time to update his simplistic site.

His runs for office have been about raising awareness about abortion, and his campaign activities include holding anti-abortion signs at an intersection every Sunday after church with his wife, another family and a homeless man whose girlfriend had an abortion when he was 18. (After a feud with the Mormon church over its abortion policy, Pro-Life and his wife resigned from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and attend a nondenominational Christian church.) They attend Boise State Broncos football games, Pro-Life said, and hold a sign that says "Abortion Kills Baby Broncos."

"I really believe it's murder, and I'm gonna say that," Pro-Life told ABC News. "So when your name's 'Pro-Life,' then you can maybe say more things than you would or could otherwise, and that's why I run for office."

Pro-Life said he's taken a long, difficult road to getting his name on the ballot, at least as he wants it to appear. He changed only his middle name to "Pro-Life" in 2004, and when he first ran for governor in 2006, the secretary of state's office told him his middle name could not appear. Pro-Life legally changed his full name before the election, he said, but not in time to get it on the ballot. Instead, he appeared as Marvin Richardson. He told ABC News that the state legislature later sought to bar him from appearing as Pro-Life when he ran for Senate in 2008, fearing that voters would mistakenly vote for him, thinking they were merely affirming their stances on abortion. But Pro-Life did appear on the ballot under that name in 2008, as he did in 2010 when he ran for governor a second time.

His wife supported the move, and Pro-Life told ABC News that the only difficulty his name-change engendered was with his daughter -- one of 15 children, Pro-Life told ABC News -- on her wedding.

"On the invitations she didn't put 'Pro-Life and Kirsten Richardson,' she put 'Marvin T. and Kirsten Richardson,'" Pro-Life told ABC News. "So we thought that was of course wrong. She wasn't honoring my name. We didn't say anything to her, we just thought, well she can do that, it's her day. But our friends, they all accepted it pretty good."

Kirsten Richardson, who has run for seats in the state legislature in every election since 2006, said she wants to change her name, too. "I thought it was a good idea, I thought that'll show what you're really all about," she told ABC News. "I was all for it." The couple says their 23-year-old son is also considering changing his name to something "Pro-Life" related, and Pro-Life points out that this would be a courageous move at such a young age. "He's trying to find a wife," his father pointed out to ABC News.

Pro-Life says he does not intend to change his name back to Marvin Richardson and that he supports his wife's desire to change hers. The only reason she didn't do it when he did, Pro-Life says, was the $250 cost.

"We don't want to have on our tombstones 'Pro-Life' and 'Kirsten Faith Richardson' -- that makes no sense," he said.

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