A man from northwest Iowa who was the “America’s Party” candidate for president in 2012 hopes to challenge Governor Terry Branstad in the Iowa Republican Party’s 2014 Primary.

Tom Hoefling of Lohrville has been traveling the state since December, hoping to collect the roughly 3600 petition signatures he needs in order to qualify for the June 3 Republican Primary ballot.

“I don’t have any illustions about winning,” Hoefling said during a recent interview on KQWC Radio . “I’d love to win. I think I could win, but this is about forcing a public debate about the future of this state.”

Hoefling helped found the “America’s Party” in 2008 and four years later he won about 40-thousand votes nationally as the party’s presidential nominee. He is now running what he calls a “grassroots campaign” for governor.

“The response from the media and the political establishments are a cold chill, generally. Even the state GOP has pretty much liked to pretend that I don’t exist, which is fine, but once we get on the ballot, they’re not going to be able to ignore us any more,” Hoefling said. “We’re going to have to have a debate over these very important things.”

According to Hoefling, what has passed for “economic development” during Terry Branstad’s two decades as governor is “crony capitalism.”

“I live out in a little town of Lohrville. Our town is suffering and we’re not the only town. Half of our town is gone. Our Main Street is gone, only a few buildings remaining. Our school is empty. Our town is going away, so when I hear the economic ‘happy talk’ coming from the governor, frankly, that’s not the real world for the people that I know,” Hoefling said during the radio interview. “People are struggling. They’re struggling to keep their bills paid, to stay off of public assistance, frankly.”

Hoefling also criticized something called the “common core” curriculum that supporters say will ensure students graduate with a baseline of math and language skills.

“Not only do I not like the content of common core itself,” Hoefling said, “but just the idea that our curriculum should be imposed upon us from the top down I don’t like.”

Iowa and 45 other states have adopted the common core curriculum. Hoefling said it flies in the face of “true local control.”

“For 20 years I’ve been talking to people about how we need to reform our education system,” Hoefling said. “…I think the local taxpayers, the local parents should be in control of our education.”

Hoefling, who is 52, is the father of three adult children and five children under the age of eight.  Hoefling has worked on the presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns of Alan Keyes, the three-time Republican candidate for president who ran as the “America’s Party” candidate in 2008.

Governor Branstad plans to submit his petition signatures tomorrow to the secretary of state and his campaign team says he has more than enough signatures to qualify for the June Primary ballot.

(Reporting and editing by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson; additional reporting by KQWC’s Pat Powers)