GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time Wednesday since declining an invitation to debate his primary election opponent, West Michigan Congressman Justin Amash answered questions about why.
Amash says he won’t debate his challenger in the August primary because Brian Ellis is “not running seriously.”
Ellis, a Grand Rapids businessman, accepted an invitation from WOOD TV8 to engage in a televised debate with Amash, but Amash declined.
“He’s not a serious opponent,” Amash said in a Wednesday telephone interview with 24 Hour News 8 from Washington, D.C. “We take every election seriously, but you can’t expect the guy who’s going to smear you the whole time and not actually present any ideas to be considered serious.”
“The only thing he would want out of a debate is to spend time smearing me and I think that it’s appropriate for me to say, ‘No, thanks.’ If you want to go do that, you can do it on your own dime,” Amash continued.
Ellis’s campaign fired back and issued a statement in response to Amash’s comments.
“It’s no surprise Justin Amash is dodging a debate because he can’t defend his voting record. He voted against the Balanced Budget Amendment, has an “F” rating from AMVETS, the worst rating on veterans’ issues in all of Congress, and has lost the Michigan Right to Life and Grand Rapids Chamber endorsements,” said Megan Wells, an Ellis campaign spokesperson, in an email statement.
“I’m 100% pro-life and I have the people of the district behind me,” Amash told 24 Hour News 8. “We feel very good about where we are and we’ve spent so much time in the community over the past few years.”
Amash also refused to debate his Democratic challenger in the 2012 general election.
The contention in the Amash-Ellis matchup continues to increase as both sides air TV commercials about the other.
The back-and-forth comes as Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia lost his primary election bid after an historic upset by tea-party opponent Dave Brat.
“I think the Cantor race is a reflection of what’s going on in our race,” Amash said. “There seemed to be a disconnect between what our leader was doing here in Washington and what people at home expected of him.”
Amash said he has maintained a connection with his constituents by holding regular town hall meetings and explaining his votes using social media.
Still, the Ellis campaign says Amash is not it touch.
“Brian’s focus is on the residents of Michigan’s 3rd District and we know that Justin Amash’s votes against the Balanced Budget Amendment and to allow gender selection abortions to continue are way out of touch,” Wells said.
“Lets see him get out there,” Amash said, criticizing the lack of public appearances by Ellis. “We’ll see at the end of the day how it goes on election day.”