Michigan: Tea Party's Amash Wins But Big Establishment Night

Image: Michigan: Tea Party's Amash Wins But Big Establishment Night Rep. Justin Amash. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Landov)

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 08:05 AM

By John Gizzi

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Although two-term and tea party favorite Rep. Justin Amash easily beat back a primary challenger with strong backing from the Grand Rapids business community, establishment Republicans emerged on top in most of the contested Michigan primary races on Tuesday.

Amash, a protégé of Ron Paul, is best known for legislation to ban the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone records of Americans. He rolled up 57 percent of the vote in Michigan’s 3rd District GOP against attorney and business favorite Brian Ellis.

However, the string of nomination victories by the GOP establishment in two open U.S. House districts as well as in contested nomination battles for legislative districts has raised fresh doubts over whether tea partiers can make good on a vow to deny renomination to GOP Lt. Gov. Brian Calley at the state party convention later this month.

Calley infuriated the tea partiers when he called for expansion of Medicaid in Michigan and endorsed the federal education program.

When tea party-backed candidates do well in primaries, they usually do very well in races for precinct delegates, the lowest line on the primary ballot, who attend or select those who attend the state party convention (which picks statewide candidates below that of governor).

Now, with the poor showing of tea party conservatives in the primaries, Wolverine State GOP sources believe Calley will have the upper hand at the convention over tea party favorite Wes Nakagiri. Moreover, members of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's administration ran for precinct delegate slots to try to stop opponents of Calley's renomination, which the governor strongly supports.

In the 8th District (Lansing) vacated by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, state Sen. Mike Bishop, son of revered former state Sen. Don Bishop, was a landslide winner over former state Rep. Tom McMillin, a key operative in Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign.

There were similar results in the 4th District, where state Sen. John Moolenaar handily defeated businessman and political outsider Paul Mitchell, who spent an estimated $5 million of his own money on the race. Moolenaar had the backing of outgoing Rep. Dave Camp and his predecessor in Congress, present State Attorney General Bill Schuette, as well as the Midland business community.

"Mitchell is yet another rich GOP candidate who lost because of professional malpractice," said one prominent Michigan GOP consultant after the primary Tuesday, "How do you spend $5 million and sustain an Epic with a capital 'e' loss?"

The only surprise in the 11th District was the size of the margin (65 percent of the vote) that Oakland County attorney David Trott amassed to make freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio only the third GOP incumbent to lose renomination this year.

Bentivolio was nominated and under flukish circumstances two years ago after then-Rep. Thad McCotter was stricken from the primary ballot for invalid signatures on nominating petitions.

Backed by Mitt Romney, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Business and Industry Political Action Committee, Trott clearly outspent Bentivolio, who was backed by local tea party groups when he won in 2012 and by Ron Paul (although Bentivolio said he never met the former Texas congressman).

However, after the congressman voted to lift the debt ceiling last year, most of the tea party groups voiced disappointment with him and remained neutral in the primary.

"And you have to remember Dave Trott said he would not vote to lift the debt ceiling unless the lifting was accompanied by the appropriate spending cuts," Trott spokeswoman Megan Piwowar told Newsmax.

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