Arizona Democrats ‘furious’ at special-ed teacher considering a run against Giffords

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Anthony Prowell teaches at Liberty Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona. Until recently, he’s dedicated most of his time to educating special needs students. These days, he’s become a local villain for his candidacy to represent Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

Prowell tells The Daily Caller that he intends to run for the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords because “so many people that you talk to now say that there’s nobody representing the average working person.”

Initially looking to run for office as a Democrat, Prowell has been subjected to the ire of local party officials and everyday citizens aghast that he would challenge Giffords, who has only cast one congressional vote since a near-fatal shooting in January.

The few local Democratic Party officials he has spoken with on the phone are “livid” and have “flat out said, ‘we already have a congresswoman and I will not support you in any means whatsoever’” before hanging up, Prowell said.

“They’re furious that I’m even considering running after what happened to her,” he said. Most phone calls that Prowell makes do not get past the front desk of party organizations.

Prowell hypothesized that he has been given a cold shoulder because “they’re afraid to make Giffords mad.”

To qualify for the primary ballot, candidates need more than 700 signatures, Prowell said. He added that finding 700 Democrats to willing to sign would be difficult.

Arizona law requires that congressional candidates “must submit signatures equal to at least one half of one per cent of the qualified registered voters, but not more than 10 per cent of the total voter registration of the candidate’s party in the congressional district.”

“The Republicans, except for [State Senator] Frank Antenori, won’t run anyone against her, because they’re going to be the bad guy, they’re going to be the villain,” Prowell explained. (RELATED: 1st potential candidate for Giffords seat emerges)

Prowell said that he is concerned that Giffords’ injuries have made her unable to effectively serve her constituents.

“It doesn’t just worry me,” Prowell said. “If you listen to the radio shows in town, the editorials coming in to the papers, they feel a tremendous amount of sympathy, but are saying she can’t do her job like she used to.”

As soon as criticism of Giffords’ job performance surfaces, the attacks flood in, Prowell said. The typical reactions: “How dare you say she’s not fit for service? She got shot, she almost got killed as a congresswoman.”

Prowell said that the district needs someone “to say this is what the working people are going through,” citing the negative impact of the economic downturn on unemployed workers.

“Boehner is fighting to allow people with private jets to keep their tax breaks,” Prowell said. “People don’t know what it’s like to drive around with horrible tires because people don’t have $700 to buy new ones.”

Earlier this summer, Prowell contacted Giffords’ office to inform them of his candidacy. “I told her office that I’m going to run. I wanted to give them a heads-up,” Prowell said. “I didn’t want to step on any toes.”

Prowell asked when Giffords would make a decision on whether she would run for re-election. “They said she was ‘at least ten months away from deciding,’” he recalled.

In the event that Giffords decided against a run, Prowell fears that the seat “would go to whoever the Republicans put up” because no Democrat would have time to prepare a campaign so close to the filing deadline. Prowell added that Democrats are encountering the same issue with the Arizona Senate race as “nobody is jumping in because they don’t know if she’s going to run.”

Faced with an unflattering reception by the district’s Democrats, Prowell said that he is meeting with local Green Party officials and considering using that party’s ballot line in 2012. A September meeting of the Green Party steering committee will determine whether Prowell is green-lighted to run under the party’s name.

“If I was a Green candidate, even if they want to say I’m from a fringe party, they have to pay attention because I have ballot access,” Prowell said.

But he concedes, “my wife said, ‘why don’t you call the Democrats one last time?’”