Businessman Brian Ellis says he's not worried about what the polls show now, he's only concerned about the results in the August 5th Republican primary.
Ellis is a business owner and former East Grand Rapids School Board member. He is challenging Congressman Justin Amash in the 3rd District, which includes both Battle Creek and Grand Rapids. Bob Goodrich is the lone Democrat in the race. Ellis says he decided to run because he's concerned about growing federal debt, health care and Amash's voting record. He sat down with WMUK's Gordon Evans and Battle Creek Enquirer reporter Jennifer Bowman. A summary:
The interview was conducted shortly after the Detroit Free Press released a poll showing Amash with a 20-point lead. Ellis says it's still early, and claims he has the incumbent "on the run." He says endorsements from Right to Life of Michigan, the Farm Bureau and the state Chamber of Commerce are giving his campaign momentum. Ellis says organizations and individuals that previously supported Amash are now running from him. Ellis says Amash is not voting in the interests of the district, but his own libertarian agenda.
Ellis says the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, needs to be repealed. But he acknowledges that won't happen while President Obama is in the White House and Democrats have control of the Senate. Ellis says he favors some provisions of the law, including a requirement that insurers cannot deny coverage for a pre-existing condition. He says that can be done without an individual mandate. But Ellis did not have a specific way to address that.
Balanced Budget Amendment
Amash's vote against a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget is one of many that Ellis has criticized. Amash explained on Facebook that he supported the idea of a balanced budget amendment But said he would propose a better version. Ellis says the vote is what matters and on the issue of a balanced budget amendment, Michigan's Third District was represented with a "no" vote.
National Security and Privacy
Amash has led the charge against unlimited data collection by the National Security Agency. Ellis says he agrees that the government should not be spying on American citizens. But he says Amash's efforts also make it difficult for the government to monitor terrorist activity in other countries.
Asked if he would support Amash, if the incumbent wins the primary, Ellis would not name him. But said he would support the Republican nominee in the general election. Ellis criticizes Amash for continuing to back Ron Paul for President in 2012 after Mitt Romney had the nomination locked up. He says Amash and other Republicans who supported other candidates should have shown their support for Romney after it was obvious he would be the party's nominee. Ellis says he doesn't see him and Amash as from different parts of the Republican party. Ellis says he supports some things that the "tea party" stands for such as limited government and lower taxes. Ellis says his campaign is about Amash's voting record on several key issues.
Discussion of other issues can be heard in the web version of the interview
Other Amash Votes
Ellis' website has a long list of what he calls "bizarre Amash votes." Among the votes that Ellis criticizes is one that would have banned abortion for sex-selection, against the Keystone XL Pipeline and against a stamp that would have raised money for breast cancer research.
The 3rd District was redrawn after the 2010 census putting both Battle Creek and Grand Rapids in the same district. Ellis says he understands frustration of voters who have been moved around from one district to another. But Ellis says he has family ties to Calhoun County, and has been spending much of his time in that part of the district. Ellis says he would go beyond the town hall meetings that Amash has held in the district, and would try to meet more regularly with constituents in informal settings.
Foreign Aid and Policy
Ellis says foreign aid is a tool, but it should be monitored to ensure that it is working to advance U.S. interests. When asked under what circumstances he would vote to authorize sending U.S. troops over seas, Ellis said U.S. interests would have to be at stake. He also used the answer to criticize President Obama's decision to release five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to bring back a prisoner of war from Afghanistan. Ellis says Amash is the wrong side of the issue because he advocates closing Guantanamo Bay. Ellis says the U.S. has to try to get POWs back, but should not negotiate with terrorists. He says it sends the wrong message. But Ellis says if a POW deserted or committed misconduct, the U.S. should still work to get that soldier back. He says the military has means to deal with soldiers' conduct.
Same Sex Marriage
Asked his position on gay marriage, Ellis says he believes in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. He says states can grant civil unions to same-sex couples.
Ellis says he supports medical use of marijuana, but doesn't support any further legalization.
Pulling an upset
Asked about winning in August, Ellis says he will uphold the conservative values of the district. He says those include a balanced budget amendment, tax cuts and opposing abortion.