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POLITICS: PennAve

Chamber of Commerce sees mixed results in Michigan

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Politics,Betsy Woodruff,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Michigan,Chambers of Commerce

In an election cycle characterized as the revenge of the Establishment, the Establishment is seeing mixed results, at least based on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's track record so far.

Tuesday's primaries in Michigan were the latest example.

In Michigan’s two most interesting primaries, the powerful pro-business lobby went one for two.

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, a veteran and reindeer farmer from Milford, Mich., walked into a Congressional seat in 2012 when then-incumbent Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to get enough legal signatures to appear on the ballot.

Bentivolio had entered that race as a long-shot primary contender, but walked into a primary win when, by default, the Republican primary ballot had just his name on it.

But it wasn’t to last. Buzz about potential primary challengers started as soon as he won his general election bid, and he lost badly to attorney David Trott, who outspent him significantly. Trott also had the backing of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose father served as governor in the state.

In the final weeks before the primary, Bentivolio thumbed his nose at the Chamber by returning an award they gave him (along with 205 other House members) and suggesting they stood “on the side of China and corporate interests seeking to exploit people for profit.”

After the results rolled in on election night, Bentivolio's chief of staff, Rob Wasinger, said the group shouldn’t make too much hay of his boss’s loss.

“The Republican revolution to take back our country continues,” he emailed, “and the Chamber will not be the arbiter of our future by promoting stale policies from the decaying corpse of ideas from the 20th century.”

But that win was tempered by another loss in Michigan.

Taking down Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning Republican whose district includes Grand Rapids, would have been a huge coup for the group.

Amash's idiosyncratic stances on everything from the NSA to Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system have made him unpopular enough that the Detroit News reported that none of his colleagues in the Michigan House delegation contributed to his re-election efforts.

And with the Chamber’s endorsement on top of all that, this race seemed like it could have been more dramatic. But as expected, Amash walked away with the party’s nomination and into two more years of irking House Republican leadership and delighting national libertarians.

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