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Joe the Plumber in bid to become Joe the Congressman

October 10, 2011|By Kim Geiger
  • Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, watches a 2008 presidential debate in his home in King Holland, Ohio. He is now planning to run for Congress.
Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, watches a 2008 presidential… (Lori King Holland / Blade…)

Joe the Plumber has tried his hand at a variety of professions since his launch to fame during the 2008 presidential election.

He’s written a book, traveled to Israel as a war correspondent, delivered motivational speeches and appeared in commercials reminding consumers about the conversion from analog TV to digital.   

Now, the former plumber, Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher, is running for Congress.

Wurzelbacher filed paperwork last week with the Federal Election Commission, stating his intention to run as a Republican candidate in Ohio’s 9th Congressional District.

That district was already poised for an interesting primary campaign after the Republican state Legislature redrew district boundaries, pitting two longtime Democrats against one another.

The new boundaries – drawn after Ohio lost two of its 18 House seats due to slow population growth -- split the city of Toledo between three districts.  The 9th district, which has been represented by Democrat Marcy Kaptur since 1983, will extend east from Toledo all the way to Cleveland.

The move pushed Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich – who represents the Cleveland suburbs in what is currently the 10th district -- into a single district, forcing a primary battle between the two Democrats.

In the Republican primary, Wurzelbacher will face Cuyahoga County Republican Chairman Rob Frost and technology executive Tom Guarente.

Wurzelbacher first hit the national spotlight in the final weeks of the 2008 presidential campaign when he challenged then-Sen. Barack Obama at a campaign event about Obama’s plan to raise taxes on those who earn more than $250,000 a year.

"I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes $250 to $280,000 a year,” Wurzelbacher said. “Your new tax plan's going to tax me more, isn't it?"

Obama’s response – “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody” – became an instant sound byte for his opponents.  (Three years later, Obama is still trying for that tax increase, but Wurzelbacher has shelved his plans to buy the plumbing business.)

The exchange was picked up by Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, who dubbed Wurzelbacher “Joe the Plumber” and referred to him repeatedly for the rest of the campaign.

The media scrutiny that comes with the spotlight quickly revealed that Wurzelbacher was actually an unlicensed plumber with unpaid back taxes.

At the time, Wurzelbacher called himself a “flash in the pan…a novelty,” and predicted that his newfound fame would “be fun for a couple days, and then it’s going to go away.”

kim.geiger@latimes.com

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