Justin Amash discussing ‘potential campaign’ for president, will make decision ‘soon’
(CNN) — Justin Amash, a former Republican-turned independent congressman from Michigan, said Wednesday that he stopped actively campaigning for his House seat in mid-February as he has been considering running for president as a libertarian.
“He has been discussing the potential campaign with his family, his friends, his team, and others, and a decision can be expected soon,” Amash’s campaign said in a statement.
His potential entry into the race comes after more than a year of refusing to rule out such a possibility.
If he does run, Amash would seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination at their convention in Austin, Texas, which is currently set for the end of May. In 2016, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, was on the ballot in every state and won a little over 3% of the national vote.
While it is very unlikely a third-party candidate could win the presidency, a high-profile third-party contender has the potential to reshape the race.
Amash was first elected to represent Michigan’s 3rd congressional district in the 2010 Tea Party wave. A traditional libertarian, he stood out from many of his House Republican colleagues to begin with, opposing expansive federal surveillance powers and American intervention abroad.
In 2015, Amash was one of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus, an influential group of hardline conservatives that clashed with House Republican leadership and pushed for a more open legislative process and curtailed federal spending. During President Donald Trump’s first two years in office, it became clear that Amash — a vocal Trump critic — and his Freedom Caucus allies — known today for being some of the President’s most ardent supporters in Congress — had different priorities.
He made waves last May when he announced his support for impeaching Trump over the findings in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He was the first and only House Republican to support impeachment. In early June, not long after coming out for impeachment, he stepped down from the House Freedom Caucus and the HFC board, telling CNN at the time that he didn’t want “to be a further distraction for the group.”
On July 4 of last year, Amash announced he was leaving the Republican Party for good.
“The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “In recent years, though, I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.”
Amash, 39, is the son of a Syrian immigrant mother and a Palestinian refugee father. Before entering Congress, he worked as a lawyer for his family’s business and served a term from 2008-2010 in the Michigan state house.
In recent days, he has criticized the President’s comments about federalism amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, Trump said at his daily press conference when discussing states staying locked down that “when somebody’s president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”
“Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option,” Amash said of Trump’s remarks.
Amash has repeatedly told reporters he would only run for president if he believes there is a path to victory. In March of last year, he told CNN he never stops thinking about possibilities like running for president “because there is a big problem with the current two-party system we have, and someone has to shake it up.”
“Now, is it possible for anyone to shake it up and make a difference?” he asked at the time. “I don’t know.”