(CNN) - Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords could have a challenger–from the left–if she decides to run for re-election in 2012.
Elementary special education teacher Anthony Prowell is running for the seat as a Democrat in Arizona’s 8th congressional district, a surprising move against a popular incumbent who’s recovering from a gunshot wound to the head in January.
Prowell, who filed with the Federal Election Commission in late July, decided to run against what he calls the government’s ignorance of the needs of “regular” people. He said he’s tired of simply writing letters and making calls to his elected officials to get his voice heard.
“I always tell my students when we complain about something, we can’t just keep complaining,” Prowell said. “We’ve got to take steps to fix it.”
But he hasn’t gotten off to an easy start. With Giffords becoming a widely-beloved public figure after surviving a mass shooting in Tucson earlier this year, Prowell said he’s already experienced pushback.
Prowell said he got the cold shoulder when contacting leaders of the local and state Democratic parties about a potential run.
“I was totally ignored,” he said. “The only people that would ever talk to me were the people that answered the phones.”
Prowell voted for Giffords in the past and insisted he’s not running to build up a political reputation. Rather, he wants to get his message across of standing up for the “regular people” who lost work in the recession.
The 48-year-old said he’s even thinking about switching to the Green Party, so as not to be “the bad villain guy.”
“I would have run anyway,” Prowell said, when talking about Giffords’ injury. “I don’t have any political ambitions to ruin.”
With little expectations that he’ll raise large amounts of money, his volunteer campaign staff so far consists of his wife, daughter and nephew, a college freshman majoring in political science.
But some local Democrats doubt his campaign will sway many - if any - voters away from Giffords.
Calling Prowell an “unknown,” Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers said his candidacy is “basically a joke.”
“There really isn’t any serious candidate that is making any sort of intentions known that they‘re going to run,” he said, adding that among local Democrats, he’s heard only one common comment about Prowell: “Who is he?”
According to Arizona’s election laws, Prowell needs about 700 signatures from registered Democrats to get his name on the ballot, another reason why Prowell may switch to the Green Party.
When contacted about the teacher’s congressional bid, Giffords’ office had no comment.
As far as the congresswoman’s 2012 intentions, press secretary Mark Kimble said Giffords is focused on her recovery right now, not politics.
“It’s not even on the radar screen at this point,” Kimball said.
But her district director Ron Barber told reporters at a Hollywood event Thursday that Giffords was fully cognitive and participating in discussions with her staff.
“We had a staff meeting with her by video the other day,” Barber said. “She’s back and will be coming back to Congress in the future.”
Giffords has until May 2012 to make a decision.
Since being gravely wounded in January, Giffords voted only once in Congress. She made her first major public appearance when she flew to Washington for a surprise visit on Aug. 1 to vote on the debt deal.