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Congressman Justin Amash plunges Michigan into uncharted political waters

Justin Amash official portrait
Congressman Justin Amash, who serves Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, announced on the Fourth of July that he would be leaving the Republican Party and indentifying instead as an Independent.

West Michigan Congressman Justin Amash is the first and only Republican member of Congress to call for President Trump’s impeachment based on evidence presented in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

On July 4, Amash publishedan editorialin the Washington Post announcing that he would be leaving the Republican Party. So, what does a newly-independent Amash mean for his district? 

John Sellek is the CEO of the Lansing PR firm Harbor Strategic Public Affairs. He also served as communications director for two Republican state attorneys general and worked in the office of former Governor John Engler.

Sellek says he wasn’t surprised that Amash, who represents Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, decided to formally distance himself from the Republican party.

“He never quite comfortably wore the Republican clothes, so to speak,” Sellek said. “He was really focused on being the constitutional consciousness of the country, as opposed to somebody that was looking for a checklist of results in his time in office.”

Amash is known in West Michigan for speaking his mind and “telling the truth as far as he sees it,” a quality that Sellek notes mirrors President Trump’s approach to politics. He says that although Amash’s constituents may appreciate his candor, there's no guarantee the congressman will be able to keep his seat in the 2020 election.

So far, Peter Meijer — whose grandfather founded the Meijer grocery store chain — State Rep. James Lower, State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, and former Sand Lake Village President Tom Norton have all entered the Republican primary to challenge Amash. Today, immigration attorney Hillary Scholten announced that she will be running as a Democrat to represent the state's 3rd Congressional District. 

Amash has also lost backing from many of his major supporters, including the DeVos family. That means Amash is looking at a tough reelection bid. 

“The idea that any politician could switch himself or herself outside of the traditional two-party system and say they were ndependent and run for the same seat and win — I’ve not yet seen anybody point to anything in history in Michigan that show’s that’s accomplishable,” Sellek said.

But Sellek notes that Amash has managed to hold onto his seat for nearly 10 years despite multiple challenges from other candidates. Regardless of who is elected to serve Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District in 2020, Sellek says that one thing is for sure: 

“This is really a completely unprecedented situation for Michigan politics." 

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas. 

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