In Congressional Primary, Amash, Ellis Have Big Differences

Jul 31, 2014

Credit Tom Arthur/Wikicommons


Congressman Justin Amash faces a primary challenge this summer. The Republican incumbent is seeking another two year term representing Battle Creek and Grand Rapids in the U.S. House. His Republican opponent, businessman Brian Ellis of East Grand Rapids, says the congressman is out of step with his district. 

The race in the third district is different from many other Republican primaries in recent years. This time the incumbent has strong ties with the “tea party” faction of the party. Justin Amash is seen as having a libertarian streak similar to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Polls have shown Amash with a large lead over Brian Ellis, but when he was interviewed in June, Ellis was confident things would turn around. At that time endorsements began coming his way from groups like Right to Life of Michigan and the State Chamber of Commerce. Ellis said that was a sign that Amash had alienated too many Republicans.

Brian Ellis
Credit WMUK

“These are organizations, and individuals that previously supported Justin Amash. And now they’re running from him because of his voting record”

Ellis has criticized Amash for his votes on abortion, National Security Agency surveillance and other issues. When Amash was interviewed in early July, he was confident that Republicans in the district will side with him.

“Brian Ellis has already lost, and the establishment have already lost this race”

Justin Amash
Credit WMUK

Amash says when he hears from Republicans they support his views, not the ones held by Ellis. Ellis says he does not view his campaign as “taking on the tea party.” The former President of the East Grand Rapids School Board says he agrees with tea party principles such as limited government and lower taxes. Ellis says his campaign is taking Amash to task for specific votes on issues like abortion.

“I think this is an important issue to the residents of the Third District. And so there was a vote to ban gender selection abortions, and Justin Amash voted ‘no.’ And then there were two opportunities to defund America’s largest abortion provider, and he voted ‘present’ on those. He lost the Right to Life Endorsement. And I’ve earned the Right to Life endorsement. And you can’t run around saying that you support life, and then vote against life when it comes before you”

Amash says he would have voted for a motion to defund all abortion providers. His objection was that the authors wanted to make a point of naming Planned Parenthood in the legislation. Amash says laws should be in place to do something, not make a point. The Grand Rapids congressman says he would have voted for a bill to ban abortion for sex-selection, but not the one that came before the House.

“They inserted language into the bill that would have put a doctor, nurse, counselor in prison for failing to report that that person suspects that another doctor has performed an abortion. And that’s a crime of inaction, that’s a thought crime. And in this country, we don’t put people in prison when they don’t do something. We put people in prison when they commit the crime themselves”

Amash has made something of a name for himself nationally by taking more libertarian stands, sometimes in defiance of his party’s leadership. The second term representative is perhaps best known for his criticism of the National Security Agency’s gathering of data in an attempt to prevent terrorist attacks. Ellis says Amash’s efforts make it tougher to spy on groups overseas that could be plotting against the United States.

“I’m against spying on U.S. citizens. But if we have the capability to monitor foreign terrorists that are clearly trying to do us harm like Al Qaeda, I think we should do that to keep our country safe”

Ellis’ campaign launched an ad which called Amash “Al Qaeda’s best friend in Congress.” Amash calls the ad “despicable” and says that ad criticizes him for opposing part of the Patriot Act. And Amash says, by doing so, Ellis is coming down on the side of spying on people in the United States.

“He’s criticizing my opposition to reauthorizing section 215 of the Patriot Act. That’s the section that the NSA uses to spy on ordinary Americans. So he can’t have it both ways where he criticizes me for opposing a section, and then he says he’s also not for NSA spying. He’s for it, if he supports that section”

Amash says this Republican primary will indicate which direction the party will go in the future. He says establishment candidates have been losing, and Amash says the Republican Party will soon have more independent leaders who support civil liberties and oppose corporate welfare. Ellis says Amash has been voting for his own libertarian agenda. Ellis says that doesn’t represent the interests of the Third District. The winner of the Republican primary will face the Democratic candidate movie chain theater president Bob Goodrich in the fall.