Aug. 06--U.S. Rep. Justin Amash survived a challenge Tuesday from businessman Brian Ellis in a west Michigan primary that, if nothing else, showed just how popular Amash is despite alienating some powerful elements of the mainstream Republican Party.
With 97% of precincts reporting, Amash, a libertarian firebrand who has made a national name for himself and been called the intellectual heir to former Rep. Ron Paul in the U.S. House, led Ellis 57%-43%. The Free Press called the race shortly before 11 p.m.
During the campaign, Ellis, a former East Grand Rapids school board member and financial consultant, picked up support unusual for a challenger to an incumbent Republican congressman in Michigan, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Right to Life of Michigan. All were alienated by positions Amash, R-Cascade Township, had taken.
But significant amounts of funding from those outside forces never materialized -- though the Michigan chamber spent nearly $200,000 on the race -- likely suggesting that Amash was safe as he ran for his third two-year term in the state's 3rd Congressional District, one of its most conservative.
Some political observers were surprised that Ellis tried to question Amash's conservative bona fides, noting his votes that aligned with Democrats -- even though he typically took them because he didn't feel Republican leaders in Congress went far enough or that they were consistent in their positions.
"Brian Ellis is a great candidate, but you're not going to out-conservative Justin Amash," said Lansing consultant John Truscott. "He should have run as a statesman for the district."
Amash will face Democratic nominee Bob Goodrich -- who owns a theater company and noncommercial radio stations and ran unopposed. Goodrich would be expected to have a difficult time winning in such a conservative district, however.
Despite Ellis' defeat, the race served to show the seriousness of the split between establishment forces in the party like the chambers and those libertarian, tea party forces supporting Amash, who has voted against the House leadership more than almost every other Republican there.
Meanwhile the win was a validation for Amash, who has complained that Republican leadership positions often don't go far enough in terms of setting policy, or cutting spending, or otherwise suffer from constitutional flaws. He explains every vote he takes via Facebook.
Ellis tried to use those votes -- or others, where Amash has refused to vote yea or nay, or what he considers faulty legislaton -- against the incumbent, attempting to show that he's not sufficiently antiabortion or pro-business. In response, Amash and his allies characterized Ellis as a closet liberal -- serving on an economic development board when Gov. Jennifer Granholm was in office and supportive of an academic standards initiative known as Common Core.
Amash certainly had help in his effort: The conservative Club for Growth spent more than $500,000 on his behalf besides raising nearly $300,000 more in earmarked funds for his campaign. As of the middle of last month, Amash had spent less than $1 million on his own race, compared with $1.2 million for Ellis, who has loaned his own campaign $1 million as well.
"Justin will continue to be a stalwart member of the pro-growth caucus in Washington and he'll always stand up to the big-government liberals in both parties," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.
Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Original headline: Rep. Amash survives challenge from Ellis in west Michigan GOP primary
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