Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher, who rose to political prominence as “Joe the Plumber” after challenging Barack Obama on his economic policies during the 2008 campaign and then entered the political arena himself, has passed away, according to his son. He was aged 49.
After a protracted illness, his father passed away in Wisconsin on Sunday, according to Joey Wurzelbacher, his oldest son. This year, his family made the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer public on an internet fundraising platform.
“The only thing I have to say is that he was a true patriot,” Joey Wurzelbacher — whose father had the middle name Joseph and went by Joe — said in a telephone interview. “His big thing is that everyone come to God. That’s what he taught me, and that’s a message I hope is heard by a lot of people.”
When he questioned Obama about his tax proposal when the president was on a campaign visit, he went from working as a plumber in a Toledo, Ohio suburb to becoming a media star.
Obama’s statement that he wants to “spread the wealth around” and their debate was frequently featured on cable news. Days later, U.S. Sen. John McCain, Obama’s Republican rival, frequently brought up “Joe the Plumber” during a presidential debate.
Wurzelbacher then joined McCain and Sarah Palin on the campaign trail, but he later denounced McCain in his book and declared he was not the Republican Party’s nominee.
He traveled the country giving speeches at tea party rallies and other conservative events after becoming an instantly popular figure among many anti-establishment conservatives.
Along with writing a book, he collaborated with a veterans’ group to offer outdoor activities for wounded warriors.
He ran for a U.S. House seat in Ohio in 2012, but in a heavily Democratic district, he was defeated handily by Democrat Marcy Kaptur.
Republicans encouraged him to run because they believed that his notoriety would help them raise enough money to stage a credible challenge. However, he garnered flak for saying that the US should erect a fence at the Mexico border and “start shooting” at people it believes are entering the nation unlawfully during the campaign.
After giving up on politics, Wurzelbacher went back to his previous job as a plumber, according to his family.
Funeral planning is in progress. He is survived by his wife Katie and their four kids.