It wasn’t just any ol’ Joe that turned up Friday to cut the ribbon at the Grady County Tea Party Headquarters.
It was national folk hero turned politician Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber,” who did the honors.
Wurzelbacher was thrust into the national spotlight during the 2008 presidential campaign when a candidate by the name of Barack Obama showed up in his neighborhood near Toledo, Ohio.
“My son and I were tossing a football in the yard. The Bengals were getting beat and we didn’t want to watch them lose, so we went outside. In about 20 minutes we saw a huge crowd of people rush by – about 50 or so,” he said.
“After my son and his friend ran down and found out it was Obama, me and the neighbors made a half-moon and were watching people fawning over Barack. My buddies and I had talked about being able to get in front of a politician and ask them a question,” Wurzelbacher said.
On that October day a little over three years ago he got his chance.
“I yelled ‘Barack!’ real loud. I told him I was a plumber trying to buy a business. I asked him why it would be OK to tax me more,” he said. “Obama wanted to define what rich is. He threw out a figure of $250,000. Why does the federal government – or anybody – get to decide who’s rich? I got a long, discombobulated answer.”
In short, Wurzelbacher felt that Obama’s proposed tax plan would cause him to pay much higher taxes as a small business owner.
Senator John McCain, who was also running for the office of president in 2008, mentioned the man from Ohio and his concern about a tax increase on small business income in the next presidential candidate debate.
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher became “Joe the Plumber” that night and was referred to many times during the 2008 campaign. He became a household name and a national folk hero who represented the “common” man and the concern with big government and high taxes. The Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin referred to “Joe the Plumber” as a description for middle-class Americans.
After being mentioned several times during the debate, the media frenzy began. His chance encounter and question led to media appearances and then hitting the campaign trail in Ohio with McCain. He was hired for a series of television commercials and wrote a book. In 2009 he worked as a motivational speaker and commentator.
Last October he launched his own political campaign in Ohio’s 9th U.S. House district saying he’s “angry about the economy and the way politicians try to patch problems with duct tape.”
Wurzelbacher’s trip to Oklahoma last week obviously was not an attempt to look for votes.
He and fishing buddy Shawn Reeder from Kentucky were in the Sooner state on a Christian mission trip to help with construction at a church camp near Pawnee. Reeder is a plumber, too, and, yes, they both were volunteering time to help with the plumbing.
Members of the Grady County Tea Party got wind of Wurzelbacher’s planned trip to Oklahoma last June at the OKC Tea Party “Taking Our Country Back Tour,” where he made a surprise appearance.
When contacted, Wurzelbacher agreed to cut the ribbon at the Grady County Tea Party headquarters on 4th St. and local members worked with the OKC Tea Party for a day long tour.
Friday’s festivities included a morning interview at Bott Radio Network, an afternoon appearance at the High Noon Club (H&H Gun Range), cutting the ribbon in Chickasha and he was the keynote speaker at the OKC Tea Party “2012 Kick-Off” event in Moore.
“I’m up here doing what I know how to do,” Wurzelbacher said. “I’ve got the respect of my friends. I’ve got the love of my family. I didn’t do anything incredible. I did what we’re supposed to. I want to serve America by leading by example.”
Referring back to his question about why the federal government – or anybody – gets to decide who is rich, Wurzelbacher said, "I'm rich. I have a great family and wonderful parents."
He said he wants to enter the political system in an effort to help get his "country back," but won't sell out.
"I can't be bought. they don't have anything I want. I want my country back," Wurzelbacher said.