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Published: Wednesday, 8/24/2011

GOP says Joe the Plumber may challenge Kaptur in '12

BY TONY COOK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Samuel 'Joe The Plumber' Wurzelbacher Samuel 'Joe The Plumber' Wurzelbacher
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, is considering a run against U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur in 2012, according to Republican Party sources.

Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said there is "high-level interest in the national Republican Party" in a potential Wurzelbacher candidacy.

"We are encouraging Joe to run," Mr. Stainbrook said. "He hasn't made any official decision yet."

Chris Maloney, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said a candidate like Mr. Wurzelbacher would have strong fund-raising capabilities thanks to national recognition he received during the 2008 presidential campaign, but added such star power would have to be weighed against the advantages of experience that someone like a state legislator could bring to the race.

Mr. Wurzelbacher wouldn't confirm or deny a congressional run. "I think it's a very interesting idea," he said Tuesday. "That's as much as I can say."

One GOP source put the chances of Mr. Wurzelbacher running against Miss Kaptur at "90 percent."

Miss Kaptur (D., Toledo) has represented Ohio's 9th congressional district since 1983. She won with 59 percent of the vote in 2010 and her district voted heavily in favor of President Obama in 2008, but congressional redistricting later this year could shake up the district's political demographics.

A challenge from Mr. Wurzelbacher is "definitely something we would take seriously," said Steve Fought, spokesman for Miss Kaptur.

Some Republicans feel Mr. Wurzelbacher could give Miss Kaptur one of the strongest challenges she has faced in recent years.

"He would make a fantastic candidate," Mr. Stainbrook said. "He goes hunting with Sarah Palin. He's friends with Ann Coulter. He's got the ability to raise the money if he makes a decision to jump into the race."

Mr. Wurzelbacher gained nationwide fame when Mr. Obama made an unscheduled campaign stop in Springfield Township. Mr. Wurzelbacher questioned the candidate about his small business tax policy, prompting Mr. Obama to say he wanted to "spread the wealth." That widely reported encounter handed supporters of Republican John McCain a rhetorical club they used throughout the campaign.

Since then, Mr. Wurzelbacher has been a frequently requested public speaker. More recently, he said he's been heavily involved with a veterans organization called Alaska's Healing Hearts, which provides outdoor programs such as hunting and fishing for wounded soldiers.

Contact Tony Cook at: tcook@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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