GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — U.S. Rep. Justin Amash will not participate in a debate with Republican primary challenger Brian Ellis, he told 24 Hour News 8 in a statement, saying Ellis is not a serious candidate in the race for the U.S. Third Congressional District seat.
After 24 Hour New 8 issued the invitation for a live debate between the two Republican candidates, Amash’s campaign team replied last week in a statement.
Ellis “isn’t a serious or credible candidate,” that statement said in part. “Unlike most of his colleagues, Rep. Amash has held dozens of public town halls since entering Congress, which provide the opportunity for anyone, including Ellis, to have a discussion with him about the issues. To our knowledge, Ellis has never attended one. We appreciate the invitation, and we encourage Ellis to do his own public appearances.”
Ellis had accepted 24 Hour News 8’s invitation to a debate.
“Voters should be allowed to have a choice. They should be able to hear from both candidates, and the debate is a good way to do that. And so, for him to run scared of it, that’s up to him,” Ellis told 24 Hour News 8 Monday. “I’m ready to debate. I’ve accepted your invitation. I’ve accepted others.”
Amash’s statement also said that Ellis’ “feckless smear campaign” and polls have shown the Ellis isn’t a “serious or credible candidate.”
In response, Ellis pointed out that Right to Life pulled its endorsement of Amash to give it to him.
“I earned their endorsement, and that’s what the whole process is about,” Ellis said.
So is Ellis a challenger that Amash needs to worry about?
One measurement of whether a challenger will be able to keep pace with an incumbent is money.
In the last available filing period through March 31, Amash had raised $1,295,025. In the same period, Ellis had raised $829,642 — and nearly half of that was a loan from the candidate — a businessman — himself.
Nonetheless, a challenger with two-thirds as much money as an incumbent could be considered relevant.
Polls are another measurement. The most recent poll by Michigan Information & Research Service Inc. (MIRS) shows Amash up by nearly 20 points. He had 42% of the vote to Ellis’ 23%, with a plus or minus 4.5 margin of error.
Other polls show the incumbent with an even wider margin.
But without a direct debate, voters won’t be able to compare the two in a head-to-head live setting. Instead, they’ll have to wade through TV campaign ads and individual statements from the candidates to decide who will get their vote.
Amash’s campaign office told 24 Hour News 8 he was not available for comment Monday.
The Third Congressional District covers parts or all of Barry, Calhoun, Ionia, Kent and Montcalm counties. Bob Goodrich, also a businessman, is the Democrat running for the seat.