Anthony Prowell picked an awkward time and place to get involved in national politics.
An elementary special-education teacher in Tucson, Prowell recently filed paperwork to run for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, a seat occupied by Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Giffords has spent the year recovering from near-fatal gunshot wounds after a gunman opened fire at a Tucson grocery store, killing six people and wounding 13.
Prowell, who originally filed his candidacy papers as a Democrat, plans to campaign on a message that the current members of Congress aren’t doing enough to bring the concerns of everyday people to Washington.
That message is sure to make his campaign a bit awkward, considering Giffords was shot while she was holding a “Congress on Your Corner” event with constituents in a local supermarket parking lot.
Prowell, 48, said he has nothing against Giffords – “I’ve voted for her before” – and that he would have challenged her even if she hadn’t been shot.
“As a teacher, I always tell my students when they complain about something…you just can’t complain and whine about things because it never solves it,” Prowell said. “If I could get her or just the Republican to acknowledge that, hey, there are real people out there…I may get my butt kicked, but that’s fine. At least I can say I tried to do something.”
Giffords’ office declined to comment about Prowell.
Prowell said he was also concerned that Giffords might decide not to run for reelection, leaving the district open for a Republican to take.
He contacted Giffords’ office in June to give them a head's up about his plans to run.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to step on any toes. I don’t want this to be a shock to anybody,’” he said.
He asked when Giffords would decide if she would run for reelection, and was told it would be eight to 10 months.
“That’s going to be past the filing deadlines,” Prowell says he told Giffords’ staff. “If she decides she can’t, then that position’s just going to go right to a Republican.”
Prowell is not a Democrat – he’s an Independent – and has no connections with the local Democratic Party establishment.
Running for Congress as an unknown is hard enough; running as an unknown against an incumbent who was shot on the job is even harder.
Prowell called around in search of Democratic supporters and kept hearing the same message: “I will not support you in any form whatsoever.”
“It didn’t hurt my feelings or anything like that,” Prowell said. “I can understand where they’re coming from.”
Local Democratic party officials have refused to deal with Prowell, he said, so he’s now talking with the Green Party about running as a Green candidate.
“I think I’ve got a message,” he said. I’ve always felt with the two-party system in America, you can have chocolate or vanilla…I think we should have choices like orange sherbet and strawberry.”