Amash quits committee, GOP conference, as analysts say seat is a ‘toss-up’

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash | Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Following his exit from the GOP last week, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Cascade Twp.) announced Monday evening he’s resigning his sole committee position and leaving the House Republican Conference. 

Amash, who announced his new independent status in a July 4 op-ed piece in the Washington Post, shared on Twitter the resignation letter sent to U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), chair of the House Republican Conference. 

It’s unclear whether Democrats, who have the majority in the House, will choose to place Amash on any committees. Amash, who was the sole Republican calling for  President Donald Trump’s impeachment, has criticized U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for failing to move forward with the process.

Amash had served on the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which has been investigating Trump’s Russia ties. In February, Amash was noted as the only Republican committee member to ask a “real question” of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer who’s now serving a prison sentence for making illegal payments allegedly at Trump’s behest and lying to Congress.

Just as Amash announced his resignation from the GOP Conference and the Oversight Committee on Monday evening, Grand Rapids immigration attorney Hillary Scholten was making her formal announcement that she intends to run as a Democrat for the seat, as the Advance reported earlier Monday. 

Amash noted as only Republican who asked Cohen ‘a real question’

Scholten, who has the support of myriad West Michigan Democrats, including former Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon, joins two other Democrats in vying for the Grand Rapids-anchored 3rd congressional seat. Four Republicans also have announced their candidacies for the seat. 

Amash’s switch as an independent, coupled with changing demographics in West Michigan, have made the historically Republican-leaning district — some of which was once held by former President Gerald Ford — into a toss-up, according to some political observers. 

Democrat Hillary Scholten announcing her campaign for the 3rd Congressional District, June 8, 2019 | Nick Manes

“I think the rest of the state, and frankly the rest of the country, looks at West Michigan through a lens that’s about 20 years old,” said Dillon, a former state representative from the Grand Rapids area. 

“They think Grand Rapids and Kent County are these hard-right Republican areas, when in fact they’re really trending hard towards a Democrat,” Dillon told the Advance after the Scholten event, adding that he believes the congressional race is a “pure toss-up and probably even leaning toward Democrats.”

To Dillon’s point, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer narrowly won Kent County in the 2018 general election, garnering just over 50% of the vote and besting Republican former Attorney General Bill Schuette, who received 46.3% of the vote, according to Kent County election results.

Immigration attorney Scholten joins Dem field challenging Amash 

Following Amash’s announcement, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics moved the race to a toss-up, as has Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report. Analysts note there are many unknown factors, including whether Amash will even be on the November 2020 ballot.

“It will take months, if not an entire year, for the race in this district to come into focus,” Wasserman wrote on Monday. “For now, the only appropriate place for Michigan’s 3rd CD is the Toss Up column.”

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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