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Published: Thursday, 10/16/2008

'Joe the plumber' isn t licensed

BY LARRY VELLEQUETTE AND TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

"Joe the Plumber" isn t a plumber at least not a licensed one, or a registered one.

A check of state and local licensing agencies in Ohio and Michigan shows no plumbing licenses under Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher s name, or even misspellings of his name.

Last night, his name, "Joe the Plumber," came up about two dozen times in the debate between Mr. Obama and Republican nominee John McCain.

Since last night Mr. Wurzelbacher who lives alone with his 13-year-old son has been besieged with local and national news media, willingly granting interviews.

Mr. Wurzelbacher told reporters Thursday morning that he worked for Newell Plumbing & Heating Co., a small local firm whose business addresses flow back to several residential homes, including one on Talmadge Road in Ottawa Hills.

According to Lucas County Building Inspection records, A. W. Newell Corp. does maintain a state plumbing license, and one with the City of Toledo, but would not be allowed to work in Lucas County outside of Toledo without a county license.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he works under Al Newell s license, but according to Ohio building regulations, he must maintain his own license to do plumbing work.

He is also not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he s not a plumber.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was hired by Mr. Newell six years ago and that the possibility of him eventually buying the company was discussed during his job interview.

He said it s his understanding he can work under Mr. Newell s license as long as the licensed contractor works on the same site.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he is working on taking the Ohio plumbing contractors license test.

Mr. Wurzelbacher s notoriety has raised the ire of Tom Joseph, business manager for Local 50 of the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Mechanics, who claimed that Mr. Wurzelbacher didn t undergo any apprenticeship training.

"When you have guys going out there with no training whatsoever, it s a little disreputable to start with," Mr. Joseph said. "We re the real Joe the Plumber."

Mr. Joseph said Mr. Wurzelbacher could only legally work in the townships, but not in any municipality in Lucas County or elsewhere in the country.

"This individual has got no schooling, no licenses, he s never been to a training program, union or non-union, in the United States of America," Mr. Joseph said.

The association has endorsed Barack Obama, according to Mr. Joseph.

Questions were raised Thursday morning whether Mr. Wurzelbacher is a registered voter.

Linda Howe, executive director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said a Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher, whose address and age match Joe the Plumber s, registered in Lucas County on Sept. 10, 1992. He voted in his first primary on March 4 of this year, registering as a Republican.

Ms. Howe said that the name may be misspelled in the database.

Mr. Wurzelbacher, 34, acknowledged during an interview at his home late Thursday morning that he knows he s "a flash in the pan," after his fame spread for an impromptu debate he had in front of his Springfield Township home with Mr. Obama last Sunday.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he objects to Mr. Obama s plans to raise income taxes on incomes above $250,000. He said he makes no where near that much money but he would not say how much he makes or if he ever expects to make $250,000. Court records from a divorce show Mr. Wurzelbacher made $40,000 in 2006.

He said, "Is it right to take someone s money because they work a little harder? It s taking away from someone s hard work."

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he disagrees with the idea of people being taxed at a higher rate because they earn more.

"They re going to take more of your money because you ve been more successful," he said.

In January, 2007, the Ohio Department of Taxation placed a lien against him because $1,183 in personal property taxes had not been paid, but there has been no action in the case since it was filed.

Mr. Wurzelbacher was playing football in his front yard with his son, Joey, on Sunday afternoon when Mr. Obama made an unscheduled stop to go door to door greeting voters and asking for their support.

In his conversation with Mr. Wurzelbacher, Mr. Obama tried to justify his plan tax breaks to 95 percent of Americans and raise taxes on incomes above $250,000.

Mr. Obama said his plan would improve the economy for other people trying to get a start in small business, and "spread the wealth."

The phrase was quickly picked up by conservative bloggers and commentators saying it reveals a desire to redistributed wealth on the part of Mr. Obama.

During that same conversation, Mr. Wurzelbacher advocated a flat tax to Mr. Obama under which everyone would pay the same rate of tax which was a feature of Mike Huckabee s unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination this year.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was surprised by the spread the wealth phrase.

"That s a pretty socialist comment. Two-fifty ($250,000) is his number now. When is it going to be one fifty ($150,000), when it s going to be one hundred ($100,000)?"

He continued: "If you believe him, I would be receiving his tax cut," adding that he would not want the tax cut.

He won t say who he will vote for on Nov. 4, but did say he likes Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

He said he was born in the Toledo area, lived until he was 13 in the Florida Panhandle area, went to Springfield High School, and then entered the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at an Air Force base in Alaska from 1992 until 1995. He said he was honorably discharged.

Mr. Wurzelbacher also said he lived in Arizona from 1997 until 2000.

From earlier editions of toledoblade.com

By BRIDGET THARP and MARK ZABORNEY

BLADE STAFF WRITERS

The story of "Joe the Plumber" - Joe Wurzelbacher of Shrewsbury Street in Springfield Township - became a centerpiece of the early minutes of the presidential debate last night.

And Joe the Plumber became the subject of national and international interest.

Mr. Wurzelbacher, 34, was more interested in taking in the debate than in assessing his place in presidential politics.

"Honestly, I'm a small part of it," Mr. Wurzelbacher said. "They're just using me as an example right now for the American public. I think they're discussing more important is-sues."

He excused himself so he could finish watching Barack Obama and John McCain debate.

But after the debate, Mr. Wurzelbacher expressed some embarrassment that he was now known across America as Joe the Plumber.

"There's a lot more important issues than me, and I'm starting to feel a little uncomfortable with it," he said. "Everyone's more worried about what Joe the Plumber has to say than what Obama or McCain has to say."

While watching the debate at home with his father, he was interrupted several times by calls from the national media including CNN, Fox News, and Good Morning America. In addition, CNBC, ABC News, the Wall Street Journal, the Houston Chronicle, and the BBC called The Blade in their quest to reach Joe the Plumber.

Mr. Obama didn't win Mr. Wurzelbacher's support on Sunday, and he didn't change his mind last night.
Mr. Obama didn't win Mr. Wurzelbacher's support on Sunday, and he didn't change his mind last night.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Mr. Wurzelbacher and Mr. Obama had something of a debate Sunday as the candidate walked house to house on Shrewsbury at the start of the candidate's four-day visit in the Toledo area.

He told Mr. Obama that he was trying to buy a plumbing business.

"I'm being taxed more and more for fulfilling the American dream," Mr. Wurzelbacher said Sunday.

Mr. Obama said, in part, "It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody that is behind you, that they have a chance for success, too.

"I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

The exchange was caught on videotape and was broadcast on a variety of news outlets and put on numerous Web sites, including YouTube.

It was the "spread the wealth around" comment that caught the attention of conservative commentators, including Rush Limbaugh, and in discussions on the Internet. Mr. Wurzelbacher was a guest of Fox News' Neil Cavuto on Tuesday.

During the debate, Mr. McCain challenged Mr. Obama: "Joe wants to buy the business that he has been in for all of these years, worked 10, 12 hours a day. And he wanted to buy the business, but he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes."

"You were going to put him in a higher tax bracket which was going to increase his taxes, which was going to cause him not to be able to employ people, which Joe was trying to realize the American dream," Mr. McCain said.

Mr. McCain then looked directly into the television camera and said: "Joe, I want to tell you, I'll not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and I'll keep your taxes low and I'll provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees. And I will not stand for a tax increase on small-business income."

Mr. Obama denied that was true.

"Not only do 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000, but I also want to give them additional tax breaks because they are the drivers of the economy," Mr. Obama said. "They produce the most jobs."

Mr. Wurzelbacher came up again when the debate turned to a discussion of health-care policies.

Mr. McCain charged that Mr. Obama's plan would fine the company Mr. Wurzelbacher wanted to buy; Mr. Obama said small businesses were exempt.

"Hey Joe, you're rich. Congratulations," Mr. McCain said mockingly.

Mr. Obama didn't win Mr. Wurzelbacher's support on Sunday, and he didn't change his mind last night.

He did allow, "Obama, you can't take away that he's a damn good speaker."

Overall, though, Mr. Wurzelbacher was pleased with Mr. McCain's performance.

"McCain was doing much better this time," he said. "McCain came across with some solid points. I like his tax cuts."

But he said Mr. Obama's health-care plan scares him.

"It's just one step closer to socialism," he said.

He said he hopes both candidates will talk about family and family values before the November election because he believes problems such as education and senior health care should come back to families taking care of each other. "Sense of family has to be brought back," Mr. Wurzelbacher said.

He added: "I believe there was too much emphasis put on me. The debate was more important."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6061.



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