Presidential candidates argue ‘Joe the plumber’ |

Presidential candidates argue ‘Joe the plumber’

Chris Outcalt
Vail CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” With a little more than two weeks remaining until the presidential election, the campaign trail is understandably dominated by the same people: Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. But last week, a new figure emerged in the race ” Joe the plumber.

Ohio resident and plumber Joe Wurzelbacher was often referenced in Wednesday’s final presidential debate. Wurzelbacher told Obama at a campaign event prior to the debate he planned to buy a plumbing company and was concerned he’d be affected by the Illinois senator’s tax plan.

Families that make more than $250,000 would see their taxes go up under Obama’s plan. Families making less than $250,000 wouldn’t see an increase.

McCain and Obama invoked “Joe the plumber” more than 20 times during debate of each other’s tax proposals.

Local plumber Ken Netzeband wasn’t impressed.

“I thought it was a joke,” Netzeband said. “The guy wasn’t even a licensed plumber.”

The Avon resident, who has owned Sundance Plumbing and Heating LLC in Minturn for 12 years, said he was glad it wasn’t “Ken the plumber” the candidates referred to.

Netzeband watched the debate and brought up the plumber references the next day to his co-workers at the shop, but no one thought much of it, he said.

“I understand that they were using him as an example to portray middle-class Americans,” Netzeband said. “But it doesn’t really affect me. … It’s just another presidential line.”

Netzeband ” a registered Democrat who is leaning toward voting for Obama ” said it was factual errors, not Joe the plumber, that came up when he and his friends discussed the debate.

“It’s amazing what the candidates are saying,” he said. “It’s not like the facts aren’t available to them; they’re just saying whatever fits their needs.”

Netzeband said it was his lack of trust in McCain and Obama’s stance on the war that has him thinking about supporting the Democrat for president.

“I think he’s skewered the facts so many times that I’ve lost my faith in him,” he said of McCain. “And I think they’re making a big deal about his prisoner-of-war experience ” it’s an extremely honorable thing he did, but I think it has no bearing at all on him being a better president.”

During the debate, McCain questioned why Obama would want to raise taxes on anyone considering the state of the economy.

If any plumbers in the Vail Valley are making more than $250,000 a year, it’s a small percentage, Netzeband said.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or

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