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POLITICS: PennAve

Chamber endorses Rep. Justin Amash's primary challenger

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Politics,Betsy Woodruff,Tea Party,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Michigan,Justin Amash,Mike Rogers,Export Import Bank

Rep. Justin Amash appears to be leading his primary by double digits, but that didn't keep the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from endorsing his challenger.

Brian Ellis, a Grand Rapids businessman, lags behind Amash in the Republican primary for Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, but may be able to capitalize on the incumbent's rocky relationships with many in Washington. His campaign announced in a press release that the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce has come out against incumbent Amash.

“Both candidates in the primary sought our endorsement, and the choice in support of Ellis on pro-growth issues was clear,” said Rob Engstrom, the group's national political director, in a statement in the Ellis campaign's press release.

Amash's campaign fired back.

"Justin Amash authored the bill that ends the Ex-Im corporate welfare bank,” said campaign spokesman Ben Vanderveen. “Reauthorizing Ex-Im is the Chamber's top lobbying goal. We disagree on the wisdom of spending taxpayer dollars on corporate welfare, and apparently that was too fundamental of a disagreement for the Chamber to stomach."

The Detroit News reported in May that none of Amash's colleagues in the Michigan House delegation are supporting his re-election bid. On top of that, retiring Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers will appear at a fundraising breakfast for Ellis, according to Politico.

But despite that, most polls indicate Amash is doing well. According to MLive, a poll from Strategic National showed him leading Ellis among primary voters, 47-24. And that's in line with previous public polling, which suggests the incumbent doesn't have too much to sweat about.

"The endorsement is nothing surprising as the U.S Chamber and most state chambers consider Tea Party-backed incumbents as trouble-makers who are disloyal to their agenda,” said one Michigan Republican leader familiar with the race. “I think it would be a big upset if Ellis wins, particularly considering the trend so far in this cycle is in the favor of Tea Party-backed candidates."

The Chamber’s endorsement only matters if it comes with cash, according to Michigan Republican observers. And don't count Ellis out just yet.

“What this race comes down to is Amash articulating how conservative he truly is, and Ellis saying he isn’t conservative enough,” said Michigan Republican consultant Stu Sandler. “Amash is a very good messenger, but Ellis has a lot of resources and issues he’s hitting him on.”

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Betsy Woodruff

Political Writer
The Washington Examiner

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