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GOP candidate for Michigan governor: Capitol rioters 'overcome by passion'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Austin Chenge, a Republican candidate for Michigan governor, says individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week as part of a violent mob were "overcome by passion."

Chenge, 35, of Grand Rapids, whose website says he studied law and served in the U.S. Army, made the comment Monday, five days after an insurrection took place at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., where thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump charged the building and forced lawmakers to evacuate their chambers. Congress was attempting to count states' electoral votes.

Five people died, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating.

"Some of them were overcome by passion, more passion than others and may have acted in a way that they didn’t intend to when they went there," Chenge said about the Trump supporters. 

Republican Austin Chenge is running for Michigan governor.

Chenge, who says he's already visited all of the state's 83 counties as part of his campaign, added that he doesn't endorse violence but that people who went to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday wanted to voice their concerns about the direction the country.

Officeholders have widely condemned the violence and illegal actions that took place at the Capitol last week. Among them, U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township, has said storming the building was an "act of domestic terrorism." Laura Cox, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, tweeted that the "desecration of our nation's capital was unacceptable."

State Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, plans to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to "condemn the attempted coup to overturn the 2020 presidential election at the U.S. Capitol."

Dozens of people have already been arrested, the FBI is looking for information on others and authorities have revealed that pipe bombs had also been placed near the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican national committees.

A day after the attack, Chenge tweeted, "Yesterday, I saw Americans doing everything necessary to ensure their God-given freedoms, their rights and their #American way of life, some were overwhelmed by more passion than others, but all for the love of their country."

Michigan's next gubernatorial election is in 2022, when Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to run for reelection. Chenge, who describes himself as a "veteran, entrepreneur and conservative Republican," formed his campaign committee on March 15, 2020. He is the first GOP candidate to form his candidacy.

His website says he is a graduate of the School of Law at the University of Birmingham, England, and "created waving in a social networking environment in 2011, a concept later seen" on Facebook.

Chenge said he wants to be the "people's governor." Although he says people who stormed the Capitol were "overcome by passion," he said that doesn't mean those who committed crimes should "get away with it."

Asked if it was appropriate for people to enter the Capitol building, he responded, "If someone is motivated by passion to do something, it’s more subjective than it is objective."