Afendoulis joins chorus of Amash primary challengers

State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Twp.) is the latest to announce a 2020 run for Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District based in the Grand Rapids area. 

Afendoulis, a freshman state representative, has joined her colleague, Rep. Jim Lower (R-Greenville), and former Sand Lake Village Trustee Tom Norton in mounting a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.).

Lynn Afendoulis | Nick Manes

Amash has made waves in recent months as the only GOP member of Congress to publicly call for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump in the wake of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election interference. 

Although Afendoulis did not mention Amash by name during her formal announcement, she clearly sought to portray the congressman’s independent streak as a liability to the West Michigan district. 

“It’s time for a representative in Congress who works well with others. And with respect to address the issues of the district and of our nation,” Afendoulis said. “It’s time for a representative who works hard to help the people and communities of our district thrive. It’s time for a representative who plays well with others in the sandbox to get things done for the people she represents.”

Amash votes against his party more than any other U.S. House member

Prior to running for the state House, Afendoulis spent almost two decades as a communications executive at Universal Forest Products just north of Grand Rapids. She succeeded her second cousin, now-former Rep. Chris Afendoulis, who vacated the seat to unsuccessfully run in the upper chamber against now-Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids).

Lynn Afendoulis said she was compelled to run for Congress just months after starting in the state House to continue strong economic conditions and address “the security of our borders.” 

Rep. Jim Lower | Nick Maness

Lower, in a statement, tore into his House colleague, calling her “Anti-Trump” and sharing quotes from Facebook in which Afendoulis allegedly slammed the president before he was elected in 2016. The Advance could not locate the posts on her Facebook page. 

“Anti-Trump Afendoulis’ candidacy is great news for me, she takes votes away from Anti-Trump Amash because they both appeal to the same voters, people who do not support our President,” Lower said, adding that he was “proud to vote” for Trump. 

Afendoulis, however, during her Thursday morning announcement at a Grand Rapids restaurant, said she believes Trump has done a great job and touted the strong West Michigan economy. 

Speaking with reporters after the announcement, Afendoulis said she would “absolutely” support whoever winds up becoming the Republican candidate in the general election. 

Norton did not respond to a request for comment about the race.

For his part, Amash does not appear to be sweating the emergence of yet another primary challenger.

“She’s another candidate who puts the party first, and that approach doesn’t fly in our community,” Amash said of Afendoulis in an emailed statement.  

Amash, however, has continued to rule out a possible Libertarian Party bid for president and has left the door open for a challenge to Trump as recently as Wednesday, according to the Hill. 

A handful of Democrats have also announced candidacies for Amash’s seat, which encompasses parts of Barry, Calhoun, Kent, Ionia and Montcalm counties. The Cook Partisan Voting Index has the 3rd District as a likely GOP seat with a score +6 in favor of Republicans. 

Former Obama aide announces for Congress in Amash’s district

Federal Elections Commission filings show Amash with $133,454 in cash on hand as of March 31. His primary challengers have not yet reported campaign donations. The fifth-term congressman, however, has lost the financial support of the wealthy West Michigan DeVos family. 

Meanwhile, the influential business group Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce says its membership is closely watching the race. Speaking with the Advance after Afendoulis’ announcement, Senior Director of Government Affairs Josh Lunger stressed that the chamber’s political action committee has a long ways to go before making any sort of endorsement. But he did say that Afendoulis has been a “tremendous partner,” both in the state House and during her time in the private sector. 

Lunger said the group’s membership is looking for a representative “who can work with their colleagues in the House and the Senate and other Michigan legislators to be effective for West Michigan and Michigan in general.” 

Nick Manes
Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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