Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who became known as “Joe the Plumber” during former President Obama’s first White House campaign, died Sunday, his son confirmed to The Associated Press. He was 49.
Wurzelbacher — whose friends and family knew him as Joe — reportedly died after a long bout with pancreatic cancer.
Wurzelbacher shot into the national political spotlight when he pressed then-senator and presidential candidate Obama over his concerns about facing higher taxes if he opened his own plumbing business.
Obama responded that he wanted to “spread the wealth around.”
The moment, which was televised nationwide, became a defining feature of the final stretch of the 2008 presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the GOP presidential candidate, embraced the moment and coined the name “Joe the Plumber” as a symbol of the struggles of the working man.
Wurzelbacher even joined McCain on the campaign trail for the final stretch and was embraced by many conservative voters and media figures.
Wurzelbacher, who was a working plumber, ran for Congress as a Republican in a Democratic-leaning district in 2012. He lost in a landslide. He also wrote a book and worked with veterans organizations that helped wounded soldiers, the AP reported.
“The only thing I have to say is that he was a true patriot,” Joey Wurzelbacher, his son, told the AP in a phone 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.”