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Topics: House Republicans

Justin Amash's unconventional victory speech

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Ashe Schow,Michigan,Justin Amash,Chambers of Commerce,House Republicans

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., fended off his primary opponent, Brian Ellis, by 14 percentage points Tuesday night. Everything was going swimmingly — until the incumbent made his victory speech.

Amash, one of the most libertarian members of Congress, is known for his unconventional ways (bucking party leadership, daring to inform constituents why he voted the way he did), but last night, things got even more unconventional.

A typical victory speech includes many thank yous and praise for one’s opponent — but not Amash’s.

“You owe my family and this community an apology for your disgusting, despicable smear campaign,” Amash said of Ellis. “You had the audacity to try and call me today after running a campaign that was called the nastiest in the country.

“I ran for office to stop people like you."

Whoa there, Amash. Every campaign gets nasty, why so indignant?

"Mr. Amash, you were called al Qaeda's best friend in Congress, and for good reason,” a veteran in a television ad for Ellis said.

Wow, okay. Yeah, that’s a step too far.

The Ellis ad was referring to comments made by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., from May.

In an interview with West Michigan’s Fox affiliate, Amash again called for an apology from Ellis, and added: "I'm an Arab-American, and he has the audacity to say I’m al Qaeda’s best friend in Congress.”

Amash is the first Palestinian member of Congress.

But Amash didn’t just call out Ellis in his victory speech. He also called former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., a “disgrace” for supporting Ellis.

“You are a disgrace. And I'm glad we could hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance,” Amash said.

Amash was referring to Hoekstra’s loss to Rick Snyder in the 2010 Michigan gubernatorial race and his loss to Sen. Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 U.S. Senate election.

Amash’s win dealt a blow to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who backed Ellis. The GOP establishment, including Amash’s fellow Michigan delegates, also wanted to bring the incumbent down.

But even though Ellis outspent Amash by about $300,000, the incumbent was able to sail to victory.

Why?

Probably because Amash is as “man of the people” as you can get in Congress. He’s never missed a vote, and he explains each of his votes in Facebook posts. He holds more town halls than most other members and doesn’t pre-screen the questions — meaning anyone can ask him anything they want.

His approach infuriates GOP establishment, leaving him with few friends in Congress. But his constituents know exactly what they’re getting from their representative — and that’s rare in Congress.

"He's just a very hardworking member," former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis told the National Journal. "He doesn't always vote the way his district wants him to, but he has very good constituent relations. He goes to meetings and responds to his constituents. And that's a tough thing to beat."

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