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3rd congressional candidate debate heats up in Grand Rapids

3rd congressional candidates Pat Miles Justin Amash
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Pat Miles (left) and Justin Amash (right) debate at Davenport University in Grand Rapids Wednesday.

Congressional candidates in Michigan's third district debated health care, education, and government spending in West Michigan Wednesday night.

Democrat Pat Miles is a Grand Rapids attorney who touts his moderate views in the generally conservative district. He's endorsed by a number of local republicans who claim their party's candidate, Justin Amash, is too extreme.

That argument came to a head in the debate during a discussion about the federal department of education. Miles read a quote from Amash saying that it should be abolished. Amash explained he favors local control over education and says he would not seek to get rid of the department. The freshman republican state lawmaker is favored by the West Michigan tea party for his willingness to stand for his conservative principles.

Miles tried to paint Amash as an extremist. Miles noted Amash has been the sole vote against dozen of bills in Lansing. "To do that 60 times in less than two years says 'I'm smarter than everybody else.' These are not times for us to be standing alone. These are times for us to be working together," Miles said.

Amash defended his record, saying a tough politician votes on their principles. "Sometimes you've got to stand up and stand up to the bureaucracy in Lansing and in Washington and sometimes that means standing alone," Amash said.

The 3rd district covers three counties and includes Grand Rapids. Congressman Vern Ehlers represented the district and is retiring after 17 years in office.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.