GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Less than 24 hours after U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) called his primary opponent’s campaign “disgusting” and “despicable,” Kent County GOP members gathered to preach unity heading into the November general election.
The unity event is an annual one, but had special meaning this year after the contentious campaign and comments.
Amash, the incumbent, won the Republican primary against challenger Brian Ellis Tuesday. His victory speech Tuesday night started out as many do, with thanks to his family and supporters. But toward the end, Amash aimed harsh words toward his opponent.
“To Brian Ellis, you owe my family and this community an apology… for your disgusting, despicable, smear campaign,” Amash said. “You had the audacity to try to call me today after running a campaign that was called the nastiest in the country. I ran for office to stop people like you — to stop people who were more interested in themselves than in doing what’s best for their district.”
He said he declined Ellis’s call to concede the race.
>>Inside woodtv.com: Amash’s Tuesday comments
Amash reiterated his statements in an interview with 24 Hour News 8 just after the speech, and again Wednesday outside a Kent County GOP Unity Reception in Grand Rapids.
He said Republicans shouldn’t tolerate dirty campaigning.
“We as a party shouldn’t countenance, shouldn’t accept, shouldn’t tolerate the kind of campaign that was run over the past 10 months,” Amash told 24 Hour News 8 in a live interview. “We shouldn’t have 10-month campaigns where we go after each other, telling all sorts of lies, and then at the end say, ‘It’s just OK. No big deal.’ And that’s what happened here, where someone came after me, said vicious things, hurt my family, hurt the community and then expected us to get on with it as if nothing happened. And that’s wrong,” he continued.
Watch Amash’s complete live interview with 24 Hour News 8 via YouTube:
After the fiery comments, some who attended the party told 24 Hour News 8 they wondered if Ellis would show up to the unity event.
Ellis did walk into the event a few minutes after Amash, and 24 Hour News 8 asked him what he thought about Amash’s speech.
“I was pretty tired last night,” Ellis said initially. “He said what he said. I want to see the party move forward. The campaign is in the past and I’m putting it behind me every step along the way here.”
24 Hour News 8 pressed him on if he was focusing on Amash’s accusations that Ellis smeared the incumbent.
“No, I think the comments are unfortunate, but that’s up to him, not me,” Ellis replied.
Ellis did say he “absolutely” planned to vote for Amash in the November general election.
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga was also at the unity event. 24 Hour News 8 asked him if he thought the rancor in that other primary would hurt the party overall.
“Campaigns and primaries are tough things and I know some things are said, sometimes in the heat of battle,” said Huizenga. “I just hope everybody’s going to be able to move beyond that and come together.”
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land echoed the sentiment of unity.
“I’ve always worked with everyone,” said Land. “We’ve got a great ticket. We’re going to all work together to win because it’s about Michigan. Putting Michigan first.”
There are about 90 days until the general election, in which Amash will be challenged by Democrat Bob Goodrich.