Third district House candidates clash in debate

Vying for votes on the coming election day, incumbent Republican Representative Justin Amash and his challengers, Douglas Smith, a Democrat, and Ted Gerrard of the US Taxpayers Party, sparred over issues in a debate at the WGVU studio last Thursday, Oct. 27. Questions covered police shootings, the role of American troops, the Flint water crisis, Obamacare and the presidential election.

Michigan’s third congressional district spans from Grand Rapids to Battle Creek and has been represented by Amash in the House of Representatives since 2011. Smith, his primary opponent, is a lifelong resident of Grand Rapids and represents a “bootstraps” journey from working blue-collar, minimum-wage work to managing multi-million dollar projects as a sheet metal worker.

“I believe we need someone with an outside perspective,” he said, pledging to use his abilities as a project manager in Congress.

Gerrard, the third party candidate is a electrical contractor whose priority is to bring fiscal responsibility to Washington.

During his time as a representative, Amash has the longest voting streak in Congress and has never missed a vote, and offers an explanation for each decision on his Facebook page.

Yet Amash’s voting patterns are not without controversy. He was the only Michigan congressperson to vote against a bill that provided emergency assistance to Flint and other cities facing lead crises.

“It was a complete failure in your leadership,” Smith charged Amash in the debate. “The last line of hope is federal government after local, state government have failed.”

Amash argued that the bill violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution because it assured assistance for a hundred cities rather than any that qualify, which may potentially exclude cities like Grand Rapids that need assistance. Amash, who has a law degree from the University of Michigan, prides himself on being one of the most independent congresspeople in Washington, and bases his votes on the constitutionality of the issue at hand.  

“We have to follow the Constitution and rule of law,” he responded. “The state of Michigan needs to step up because it’s a Michigan issue.”

Not convinced, Smith asked, “What future catastrophe will Amash fail at because he thinks it violates the constitution?” Gerrard echoed Smith’s sentiments by arguing that it is the role of government to keep people accountable in their provision of a public service such as water.

Another point of contention between the candidates arose surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”

“It’s good, but we need to continue refining it,” Smith proposed. “We need a single payer system and to negotiate prices and open the market, and to get big pharma out of government,” commenting that special interests were influencing the high prices of services.  

Amash voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “It should happen at the state level,” he said. “Obamacare has been a failure. The old system wasn’t good either, but we need something else.” He argued that the high prices for premiums were unacceptable and that because the subsidies to lower them are paid for by taxpayers, the system does not benefit the general public.

“Our country has been built on private industry performing well,” Gerrard added. “Private industry has been proven to be our best hope.” He said that he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He plans to vote for the Constitution Party nominee.

“My number one job is to protect the rights of the people,” Amash said to close. “I do it without respect to party.” He stated that he will not be voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the general election. “We need someone who is going to stand up for the constitution and who has strong moral character, and I don’t believe either of the major party candidates is fit for the office of the presidency.” He did not say who he will be voting for.

Smith will be voting for Clinton. “Everyone has flaws, the big picture is Supreme Court justices going forward,” he stated.

The candidates for the House of Representatives will appear on the November 8 ballot.