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Published: Tuesday, 10/11/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

'Joe the Plumber' considers run for House

5th District resident eyes the seat in 9th

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Samuel 'Joe the Plumber' Wurzelbacher gained fame after questioning Barack Obama in 2008. Samuel 'Joe the Plumber' Wurzelbacher gained fame after questioning Barack Obama in 2008.
ASSOCIATED PRESS/MADALYN RUGGIERO Enlarge

Just after America learned Sarah Palin won't make a run for the White House, her old hunting buddy Joe the Plumber is closer to becoming Joe the Candidate for Congress.

Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, who became an overnight sensation during the 2008 presidential campaign, said in a telephone interview Monday that he would decide by Oct. 25 if he will run for Ohio's 9th U.S. House district.

Mr. Wurzelbacher, however, has filed a "statement of candidacy" with the Federal Elections Commission to run as a Republican for that congressional seat. The filing, made last week, means a campaign committee can raise and spend funds on his behalf.

"I am still exploring it one way or another, and come Oct. 25 is when I will make an announcement. That is a date that I have come up with," he said.

Mr. Wurzelbacher, 37, a Springfield Township resident, acknowledged that he does not live in the 9th Congressional District.

"If I do anything, it would be in the 9th," Mr. Wurzelbacher said. "I live in Ohio and that is what it comes down to. Legally, as long as you live in the state one year and are a registered voter, you can run anywhere you want."

Like Mrs. Palin, Mr. Wurzelbacher has been an icon for many anti-establishment conservatives and popular among Tea Party members.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) is the 9th District incumbent and also is the longest-serving Democratic woman in the House. She and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) have both said they will run for the Democratic nomination for the seat. They were put into the same race after a congressional redistricting.

"The reason I would want to run for Congress is to show the American people and show Ohio that someone can run and serve without compromising their integrity," Mr. Wurzelbacher said. "It comes down to jobs. Ohio has lost a quarter of a million people and someone is not doing their job and I know I can do a much better job.

"Bottom line: It comes down to serving the people," he added.

Mr. Wurzelbacher was thrust into the public limelight in 2008 after questioning then-presidential candidate Barack Obama about economic policies, which led Republican Sen. John McCain to repeatedly cite "Joe the Plumber" during a debate with the Democrat.

Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said he has encouraged Mr. Wurzelbacher to run. Mr. Stainbrook said Mr. Wurzelbacher appeals to "the working class union people of northwest Ohio," conservative Republicans, and the Tea Party members.

"His real motivation is to take on and take out Marcy Kaptur," Mr. Stainbrook said.

He said Mr. Wurzelbacher did not consider a run for Congress in the district in which he lives, the 5th District, where Republican Bob Latta is the incumbent.

"He would definitely not run against Bob Latta," Mr. Stainbrook said, adding: "The reception Joe the Plumber got in the 2008 McCain-Palin race for president is the same type of welcome and warm response he gets from the Republicans today all over northwest Ohio."

Mr. Wurzelbacher in 2008 campaigned with Mr. McCain and running mate Mrs. Palin -- who reportedly took him hunting in her home state of Alaska.

Thanks to the district redrawing, the 9th District now stretches from Toledo to the west side of Cleveland.

If he does decide to run, Mr. Wurzelbacher will face Cuyahoga County Republican Party Chairman Rob Frost of Lakewood, Ohio, which is part of the new district.

Miss Kaptur and Mr. Kucinich will face off in a Democratic primary.

Steve Fought, a spokesman for Miss Kaptur, said Mr. Wurzelbacher's candidacy is an issue for Republican voters and that Miss Kaptur declined to comment.

"The more the merrier, really," Mr. Fought said. "At least this guy just impersonates a plumber."

Mr. Fought was referring to Mr. Wurzelbacher's lack of an Ohio plumber's license in 2008 when he was first nicknamed "Joe the Plumber."

In a 2008 book, Mr. Wurzelbacher explained his lack of a state plumbing license by saying his boss was a licensed master plumber and that the city and county permitted him to work under the boss' license and supervision.

Mr. Fought's comment also refers to Rich Iott, whose attempt to unseat Miss Kaptur in the last congressional election was derailed when pictures emerged of him wearing a Nazi uniform in a World War II re-enactment.

"First, he is going to have to get past Rob Frost, who surely is the favored candidate in the race," Mr. Fought said. "The race will get a lot of national attention. It already is, so yes, he will get a lot of attention."

Mr. Wurzelbacher Monday said he has used his "15 minutes of fame" from 2008 to help veterans.

"I started a veteran organization and I take then up to Alaska to take them hunting and fishing and help them reintegrate into society," Mr. Wurzelbacher, an Air Force veteran, said. "I try to make sure the veterans get the benefits that they have been promised."

The group, called Alaska's Healing Hearts, lists Mr. Wurzelbacher as vice president on its Web site.

James Hastings, secretary for Alaska's Healing Hearts, said Mr. Wurzelbacher has been with the group since its inception and is heavily involved.

"We don't just go hunting and fishing with veterans and their families," he said. "We have done everything from helping veterans find a baby-sitter to chopping firewood. We reach out to our community here in Alaska and our goal is to help spread the success and we would like to see the lower 48 [states] adopt their own types of programs."

Mr. Hastings said during a telephone interview from Alaska that Mr. Wurzelbacher was in the state in May for a two-week bear hunt with veterans and their families.

"He is not on our board of directors because of his notoriety. He is out there because he is a brother and veteran who knows what it is like," Mr. Hastings said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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