More than a week after Republicans in Michigan's 3rd District resoundingly re-nominated him over well-funded opposition, Rep. Justin Amash's fiery primary night speech is still being heatedly discussed in state and national GOP circles.
As it is with just about everything involving the iconoclastic two-term lawmaker and protégé of Ron Paul, there is no middle ground.
Some believe that Amash's refusal to take a concession call from defeated opponent Brian Ellis, and his subsequent denunciation of Ellis and his supporters on TV, will lead to another spirited primary challenge in 2016.
Others insist that Amash, 34, is stronger than ever after the primary and now has a lock on the Grand Rapids district once held by President Gerald Ford. It has also been speculated he will run for state attorney general in 2018.
Faced with wealthy businessman Ellis deploying more than $1 million of his own wealth on the race, as well as support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Amash won a stunning 57 percent of the vote. But when Ellis called to concede, Amash refused to take the call because of what he considered the challenger’s “disgusting, despicable, smear campaign."
"You have the audacity to try and call me today,” declared Amash in his election night speech, “after running a campaign that was called the nastiest in the country. I ran for office to stop people like you."
Amash was particularly infuriated by an Ellis TV spot featuring a U.S. Marine Corps veteran denouncing the congressman’s support for closing the Guantanamo internment camp for terrorists and saying Amash “has been called ‘al-Qaida’s best friend.’”
The triumphant Amash also focused his fire on former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., who cut commercials for Ellis.
Hoekstra, the onetime House Intelligence Committee chairman, based his opposition on Amash’s eponymous amendment to roll back the scope of the National Security Agency in the wake of renegade NSA employee Edward Snowden’s revelations of massive eavesdropping.
Referring to Hoekstra before cheering supporters at his victory party, Amash said, "You are a disgrace. And I'm glad we could hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance."
“He was completely ungracious,” a former GOP elected official in Michigan who requested anonymity told us. “That won’t go over well with Michiganders. He’ll have another primary in ’16 and he’ll lose.”
Already there is talk of a U.S. House bid in two years by State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, daughter of former lieutenant governor and 2002 GOP gubernatorial nominee Dick Posthumus. Lyons, who is “termed out” after six years in the state House, is also mentioned as a candidate for Kent County clerk in ’16.
But there are second opinions.
“Was Amash hurt by that speech — not at all!” Bill Ballenger, editor of the influential “Inside Michigan Politics” told Newsmax. “He obviously helped himself in terms of warding off any future serious competition by crushing Brian Ellis. Also, it depends on how Amash performs going forward. We can't assume everything will stay the way it looks this year --- Amash may change, and the politics around him may change. Let's wait and see. He's looking plenty strong for now.”
Ballenger noted that Amash is no stranger to controversy, having voted against fellow Republican John Boehner for speaker in 2013 and against raising the debt ceiling this year. Such stands, he added, led to national conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity coming to his defense with high-dollar expenditures in the primary.
We ran into Hoekstra last week and asked his response to Amash and his rhetorical drone that was aimed at the former congressman.
“I congratulate Justin on his big win,” he replied, “and I wish him the very best in his next term.”
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