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Third Congressional District Candidates Offer Stark Contrast

Capitol Hill - file photo by Svetlana Larina, iStock
iStock/Svetlana Larina

Voters in Michigan’s Third Congressional District will decide next week if they want to give their current representative, Republican Justin Amash, two more years in the House. The Democratic candidate, movie theater chain CEO Bob Goodrich, is trying to convince voters to make a change. 

The Third District includes both Battle Creek and Grand Rapids. Republican Justin Amash first won election in 2010. He won again in 2012 after the district was redrawn to include Calhoun County. Amash has earned a reputation for libertarian-leaning views, and for regularly bucking his party’s leadership. That led to a primary challenge this year. But Amash easily defeated Brian Ellis in a contest that turned nasty at times. Amash refused to debate Ellis, saying that he wasn’t a serious candidate who was running a “smear campaign.” By contrast, the general election campaign has included two debates between Amash and Democrat Bob Goodrich, both of which were seen as a civil exchange of views. Goodrich, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination, became the CEO of his family’s chain of movie theaters in 1967. He’s also the owner of several non-commercial radio stations. Goodrich says he’s concerned about economic changes and a lack of opportunity.

“There’s just so much that has changed, that I find it difficult to predict what the future is going to be. I just know it has to be addressed. And when I listen to my opponent, Justin Amash, talk about the conceptual ideas of liberty and Constitutionality. And I wonder is that really going to assist people in distressful circumstance."

Credit WMUK
Bob Goodrich

Goodrich says the desire to cut taxes, and for companies and people to avoid paying taxes has left a big hole in areas where the government needs to invest. Goodrich says that includes education and highways. But Amash says the federal government should have a limited role in issues like poverty and income inequality.

"Well a lot of the income inequality occurs because you do have regulations in place that are benefiting a few people and a few large corporations at the expense of everyone else. And one of the things that I have pushed for as a federal representative is to end corporate welfare. One example of this is the Export-Import Bank, where regular folks are asked to pay into a corporate welfare bank which then sends money to overseas corporations so they can buy products from corporations here at home.”

Credit WMUK
Justin Amash

Amash says issues such as the minimum wage are best handled at the state level. He says the federal government tends to impose a “one size fits all” policy. But Amash says New York City is very different from Calhoun County and should be governed differently. The two men differ sharply on many economic issues, including health care. Goodrich says the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is changing the health care system for the better.

“Well I find it exhilarating that we now have 14-million people that have signed up, and hopefully another 15 or 16-million people. Over a hundred years, starting back with Theodore Roosevelt there’s been a hope to have some kind of universal health care program in the United States. We’re the only country literally in the world that did not have it."

Goodrich says while covering more people is important, the Affordable Care Act is also taking a hard look at and challenging hospitalization costs. He says a single-payer system, used in many other developed countries would be “optimum.” Goodrich says Vermont’s experiment with a single-payer system may show whether or not it can be done nationwide. Amash says he believes that people should have access to health care. But he says the Affordable Care Act isn’t the way to do it. Amash says "Obamacare" violates the Constitution, although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in 2012. Like many other issues, Amash says health care is best left up to the states. 

“The most important thing we can do is move away from the third party payer system, where people are paying for insurance and receiving benefits where the costs are unknown to them, and unknown to the physicians who are providing those medical benefits, who are providing medication or providing surgeries. People need to know what medication costs, and how much surgeries cost and how much their appointments costs, so they can make rational decisions about what they need”

Amash says he wants to encourage health care competition between the states. He says government could have some role in providing “cheap, catastrophic” health care coverage. Amash and Goodrich also disagree on many other domestic issues such as education and taxes. They do agree that the budget for the military should be examined and spending reduced. Battle Creek is currently one of four sites in the running for a proposed missile defense system. During a debate earlier this month in Battle Creek, both Goodrich and Amash said they would work to make sure that the area is treated fairly in the process. But they also said the missile defense system should be based on the military need, not how many potential jobs it could create.

Campaign finance records show Amash with a large fundraising advantage over Goodrich. The most recent filings show Amash with over $475,000 cash on hand for the final stretch of the campaign. Goodrich has just over $24,000 in the bank. There is a Green Party candidate on the ballot in the Third Congressional District. But Tonya Duncan put a message on her website in August saying that she would not be able to continue her campaign due to health reasons.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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