Amash has ‘paused’ congressional campaign to consider 2020 prez run

Rep. Justin Amash | Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Following the latest round of speculation about U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Cascade Twp.) launching a third-party run for president, he dipped his toe in the 2020 waters a bit deeper Wednesday morning.

“In mid-February, Justin Amash paused active campaigning for his congressional seat to carefully consider a presidential run,” the West Michigan congressman’s campaign said in a statement. “He has been discussing the potential campaign with his family, his friends, his team, and others, and a decision can be expected soon.”

As the Advance reported this week, after President Donald Trump declared he has “total” authority as Amash tweeted, “Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option.” After one Twitter user encouraged him to be that other option, Amash said he’s “looking at it closely this week.”

Amash sings familiar tune in flirting with presidential run

The libertarian-leaning Amash has been flirting with a presidential bid since last year. It’s not clear if Amash would seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination or launch another third-party campaign. He has been positioning himself as a limited government alternative to Trump or likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elected as a Republican in the 3rd District anchored in Grand Rapids 2010 during the Tea Party wave, Amash broke with his party last year in becoming an early supporter of Trump’s impeachment. By July, he left the GOP to become the U.S. House’s lone independent.

As he told the Advance in an October sitdown interview in Washington, he relishes being a thorn in the side of both political parties. Amash alternates which side of the aisle he speaks on, depending on which party he plans to anger that day.

“Being in one of these parties is kind of miserable,” he said. “You come to work and the leadership tried to focus you on partisan fights the whole time and messaging, and they don’t really care about policy. They certainly don’t care about principles. And that’s just a miserable state to be in.”

Amash also stoked presidential speculation, as he’s done repeatedly in media interviews.

Amash, enjoying freedom from GOP, says Trump will lose Michigan in ’20

“I do think that one of the things President Trump revealed with his election is that one person can influence a lot of people by becoming president, and I certainly think that’s important. I think that I could have a positive influence on the way people treat each other,” he said.

During that interview, Amash predicted Trump would lose Michigan in 2020.

Unlike other states, Michigan doesn’t have a strong history of electing independents to Congress or higher office. Both national Republican and Democratic congressional campaign outfits are targeting the 3rd Congressional District.

On the GOP side, businessman Peter Meijer and state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Twp.) are leading candidates. On the Democratic side, immigration attorney Hillary Scholten is the likely nominee. All have posted competitive fundraising, although Amash outraised them in the last quarter of 2019.

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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.