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Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher sees the role of government as staying out of the business of the states and the private market, and says he's campaigning to carry that message across political lines, against incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur in the 9th Congressional District.
"I don't want to represent just the parties. As a matter of fact, I won't. I want to represent the American people that live in this district," Mr. Wurzelbacher said Friday in a wide-ranging interview with The Blade.
What that means likely will be spelled out in greater detail as the campaign between Mr. Wurzelbacher, the Republican nominee, and Miss Kaptur heats up going into the Nov. 6 general election.
The two won their parties' nominations in the March 6 primary and are vying to represent the newly remapped district that stretches from Toledo to Cleveland.
Mr. Wurzelbacher, now 38, shot to fame overnight in 2008 when he and then-candidate Barack Obama debated tax policy on his front lawn during an impromptu campaign stop by Mr. Obama. He has stayed in the public eye since and is now using that platform to try to win a seat in Congress.
The Springfield Township resident is a veteran of the Air Force and was working as a plumber for a small Toledo plumbing business when he came to prominence.
As his issues, Mr. Wurzelbacher said he wants to go to Congress to tackle tax reform and overregulation.
He said the 2009 bailout of General Motors and Chrysler was a case of "government overreach into the private market."
"I'm very happy my neighbors have a job. They're good people and I hate to see any kind of unemployment. You can make the argument that ultimately it was the federal government who chopped the legs out from under the auto manufacturing industry, so you could almost say the federal government owed it back to them," Mr. Wurzelbacher said.
"What's changed after that now? We still have the same tax code system that failed [the auto industry]. We still have the same regulations that caused it to fail," Mr. Wurzelbacher said.
He criticized Miss Kaptur's vote for the Affordable Care Act, which many call "Obamacare," and said those who voted for it could be accused of treason, if the Supreme Court rules that the law was unconstitutional.
"Marcy Kaptur's proudest vote was health care, which the Supreme Court is getting ready to strike down as unconstitutional, so her proudest moment in her long distinguished career is unconstitutional. That is scary," Mr. Wurzelbacher said.
"That's the federal government overreaching its bounds and stepping on people's rights," Mr. Wurzelbacher said. "I'll go so far as anybody who had voted for it, and it's found unconstitutional, has committed treason. I would call for them to step down because obviously they are out of touch with what is the Constitution."
Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was not impressed with Miss Kaptur's status as the most senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, putting her in line for the chairmanship if Democrats win control of the House.
He said being "Joe the Plumber," which has gained him a national following, will render him somewhat more influential in Congress than the typical freshman, or even many veterans.
"I do have the Joe the Plumber platform. If I want to be interviewed, I can make phone calls. Unfortunately, not everyone in Congress has that ability," he said. He has an iPad, which he checks often for activity on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
He said he is a Republican out of necessity because the party system is the only practical way to get elected, but said his allegiance will be to the Constitution and his constituents, not the party.
"I want to represent union and nonunion. I want to represent Republicans, Democrats, gay and straight. I want everybody to have a job," he said.
He further claimed the 9th District has not been prosperous underneath Miss Kaptur, stating, "this area should be hustling and bustling and it hasn't."
Mr. Wurzelbacher is making his first run for public office. He narrowly defeated Steven Kraus of Huron for the Republican nomination on March 6, and is now building his campaign for the general election, parting ways with his primary campaign team and hiring new campaign consultants. He plans to spend about $1.5 million.
He said he's hoping to meet with U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland), who lost to Miss Kaptur in the Democratic primary, to discuss support.
"I've spoken to some Dennis Kucinich supporters who will come and support me for some of the same reasons, just because they believe in serving America as opposed to the parties," he said.
Asked by The Blade for a response Friday, Miss Kaptur defended her vote for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which mandated that all Americans obtain health insurance starting in 2014, as an effort to solve a problem of an "uneven" health-care system.
"The Supreme Court has not rendered its decisions yet, so his comments are premature. But I'm very certain that trying to find answers to help people find affordable care is the direction the country wants to move, whether you're a small business or a family," she said.
She also disagreed with Mr. Wurzelbacher's criticism that her service has not benefited the district.
"Well, you know, he doesn't live in the district and I don't know of anything he's ever done for the district, so I don't know that he's in a position to judge," Miss Kaptur said. "I think there's plenty of evidence of what we have done. The list we can point to is very long," Miss Kaptur said, citing the improved condition of the Air National Guard 180th Fighter Wing at the Toledo Express Airport, the construction of a new Maumee River crossing to eliminate one of the last lift bridges on an interstate highway in the country, and other projects.
Mr. Wurzelbacher lives in Springfield Township, which is no longer a part of the 9th District, and is not required to move into the 9th District if he wins.
Contact Tom Troy at email@example.com or 419-724-6058.