Joe the Plumber endorses Zelenik
An Ohio man - propelled past his 15 minutes of fame because his 2008 conversation with Barack Obama was taped, televised and repeated on the Internet - was in Lewisburg on Thursday to endorse one of half a dozen candidates for the GOP nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.
Gordon isn't running for re-election and there were nearly 50 people in Mildred's Restaurant listening to Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, 36, of Ohio. The man, also known as Joe the Plumber, endorsed Lou Ann Zelenik of Murfreesboro who's been a leader in Rutherford County Republican politics. She's also a licensed blaster for her heavy construction business.
"I've actually blown things up," Zelenik said to make her point about having hands-on business experience.
Zelenik: supports American energy resources; opposes government intervention; cites the BP spill as an example; worked to get Republicans elected; is on the Republican ticket, but is campaigning as a constitutional conservative.
"I've known Lou Ann for eight to 10 months," Robert "Bobby" Walker said before she arrived with Wurzelbacher, "and she is the the talkenest woman I've ever met. Don't put that down" in the news notebook for publication.
Asked why not, Walker reconsidered, indicated it might get her votes, and added, "She does talk right. She's got plenty of good sense. She'll be alright if she wins."
Mildred's Restaurant is next to the law offices of Walter Bussart who's sought the Democratic nomination to run for governor, and in the crowd for Zelenik was Ben Rumsey of Murfreesboro, dressed as Thomas Jefferson. Rumsey is Bussart's cousin.
"We love everything about him but not his politics," Rumsey's father, Mickey, said in his costume to portray Ben Franklin.
Zelenik's "God, Family and Country Tour" attracted Wendy Greer who provided as much good campaign commentary about the prospect of meeting Joe the Plumber: "This is as close as I'll get to meeting Sarah Palin."
Zelenik advocates independence, emphasizing Tennessee's volunteer spirit as Nashvillians recover from the spring flood: "We joined together. We don't need the federal government to bail us out. We are the Volunteer State."
Wurzelbacher told Greer and others his conversation with Obama on the presidential campaign trail was not planned.
He'd been watching football on TV. His team was losing, so he and his son went outside to toss a football. They noticed a campaign was nearby, so they went and ended up asking Obama about small business politics. The president's remarks about redistribution of wealth from people who are well-off to those in need has been seen as an expression of socialistic principles.
Wurzelbacher told Zelenik's supporters that since the 3rd grade, he's read newspapers and the dictionary because of what his father told him. If he didn't understand something, "Look it up," he father advised, Wurzelbacher said.
Americans haven't been researching their own candidates enough, Wurzelbacher said.
"I just want to attract more people to know her," he said.
Voters should hold candidates to their promises, Wurzelbacher said. It seems that politicians and weathermen have the best jobs. They can get it wrong and not be held accountable.
Americans should know their history and research candidates for themselves, he said.
"Do your own homework," he said. "You can't copy off of me."
As much as the event was for politics, Wurzelbacher took time to speak with Adam Hulshof who just turned seven years old. The son of Anita and Bobby Hulshof of Sheppard Branch Road, showed Wurzelbacher toys he received for his birthday.
Wurzelbacher and Zelenik took time on Wednesday for telephone interviews. He's been staying at Lebanon because motels cost too much in Nashville during music festivals.
Wurzelbacher read Obama's speech on the BP oil spill and said, "He talks of doing something, but at the same time talks about cap and trade," an energy and environmental policy that permits trading of pollution permits.
When asked the Tribune's Question of the Week - What do you think of the BP oil spill? - Wurzelbacher said, "My biggest concern is the people there - the shrimpers and fishermen and the tourists trade. I grew up in the Destin Beach area... The spill is a God-awful thing..."
BP should pay restitution.
It's been reported that Wurzelbacher quit the GOP, but he recently "ran and won a position as a captain in my local precinct," he said. He lives near Toledo, Ohio, and won the local Republican Party position by 8-9 votes out of 70, he said.
Wurzelbacher prefers to help people in politics do what's right for America and not just what's right for either major political party.
It's also been reported that Wurzelbacher has endorsed Dave Evans, another Murfreesboro resident running for the GOP nomination to run for Congress. The endorsement was in a press release from an "over zealous" campaign worker who heard Wurzelbacher say nice things about Evans while at a meeting of veterans.
"I didn't put out an endorsement," Wurzelbacher said. "I don't want to put her through the wringer," he said of the campaign worker. "She's a good person. I've spoken with Dave and he's a good man. I wish him the best. He's taken the endorsement off the Web site. He knows there was no endorsement. He received information from someone he trusted."
Zelenik was also asked the Question of the Week.
"The BP oil spill is a horrible accident, a real detriment to our environment. When an accident happens, and you have a bureaucracy involved, it takes too long," she said. "It took too long for an ... oil burn ... too long for people to come in."
Zelenik sees Diane Black as her major competitor in a race with at least seven candidates.
Zelenik is different, she says. "I'm not a product of a political career. I'm a product of a career in business and have created jobs for 20 years and met a payroll."
She says she's running for an office, not a career.