In 2008, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher became a symbol of everyday, working Americans and earned the moniker “Joe the Plumber” after pointedly asking then-presidential candidate Barack Obama about his tax policies.
Wurzelbacher served as a surrogate for Republican John McCain’s failed 2008 presidential campaign, and he then entered electoral politics himself, unsuccessfully running for Congress in 2012. A favorite among many tea party activists, Wurzelbacher raised about $426,000 for his campaign and won the GOP nomination in Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, but he ultimately lost the general election to Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
These days, Wurzelbacher is a vocal supporter of Republican President Donald Trump. Wurzelbacher traveled to Washington, D.C., for Trump’s inauguration, where the Center for Public Integrity caught up with the plumber-turned-conservative activist in a VIP section ahead of Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Center for Public Integrity: What are your aspirations for a Trump presidency?
Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher: A strong economy and a strong military and more security for the American people.
One of the big promises that Trump has made is “draining the swamp.” What does that mean to you and how do you think he’s going to do that?
That means getting rid of some career politicians that sit on their butt. Essentially, they’re like the people who take advantage of welfare — they’re not actually doing anything; they’re just filing a seat. That’s what a lot of politicians around here do, Republicans and Democrats alike. And I think Donald Trump’s going to make people work, and when they don’t work, he’s going to call them out by name.
Are there particular politicians that you’d put on the top of that list?
There’s a lot of them. I’m not going to name names only because we’d be sitting here for the next 20 minutes.
As a former candidate yourself, what do you think about the amount of money it takes to run for office?
It’s gotten to be ridiculous. It makes it harder for a regular guy who probably has a better pulse of what’s going on in America to run and actually represent his fellow Americans. When you have very rich people trying to tell me what’s it’s like to be middle class, or trying to tell me what it’s like to pay my bills, I don’t buy into it because they haven’t been there. They don’t know the struggles of every day. They don’t know the struggles of a small businessman who can’t get around the regulations — or lobby to get themselves around them.
What do you think it means when politicians do spend so much time dialing for dollars to raise campaign contributions?
They’re not doing their job, and that’s the problem. These guys are spending half the day dialing for dollars, not serving the American people. They’d be fired in any other industry in the world.
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