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Justin Amash considers run for U.S. Senate post

10:21 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
Rep. Justin Amash
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WASHINGTON (Detroit Free Press) - U.S. Rep. Justin Amash - the west Michigan Republican who has been having some difficulties with leaders in his own party - is reportedly interested in running statewide for the U.S. Senate.

The website for the conservative National Review reported Thursday morning that Amash is "privately considering a Senate bid, should incumbent Democrat Carl Levin retire." Amash's office did not immediately return an email for comment to the Free Press.

The National Review also said that Amash, a 32-year-old former state legislator from Cascade Township who is in his second term in Congress, has met with allies to talk about running for the Senate but that no decision is expected until Levin - a Michigan Democrat first elected to the Senate in 1978 - makes up his mind whether to run for a seventh six-year term next year.

For the record, Levin, 78. told the Free Press on Thursday that he's still not ready to announce one way or another just yet.

"We're still thinking it through," Levin said.

Amash has quickly established himself as a independent Republican with strong links to the libertarian wing of the party - perhaps best identified as that embraced by former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Amash has broken ranks on several occasions with Republican leaders in the House because he didn't believe their attempts to rein in government spending and authority went far enough.

He was moved off a spot on the House Budget Committee after going against leadership on several occasions.

But Amash, if he ran statewide, could potentially tap into a libertarian streak in Michigan Republican circles in a primary campaign - though that could also be seen by more mainstream Republicans as a threat to taking the seat long held by Levin. Some Republican activists have argued that some candidates too far from the center have hurt the party's chances of winning seats in recent elections.

"The establishment, such as it is, would be nervous," said Craig Ruff, a Lansing political consultant.

While Amash might lack name recognition in populous southeastern Michigan, however, that's not the case in west Michigan - which might help him in a Republican primary, Ruff said. And Amash also has the support of former Amway CEO Dick Devos and his wife Betsy, who have long been powerbrokers in the Republican Party.

Amash, said Ruff, "could have a well of funding behind him."

Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said Amash is "widely respected across the state and would be a formidable opponent" if he decided to enter the race.

That said, it could be a tough road for any Republican to win a U.S. Senate race in Michigan. In the 20 Senate elections in the state over the last 59 years, Republicans have won three - Spencer Abraham served a single 6-year term in 1995-2001 and Robert Griffin was appointed in 1966 and won elections that year and in 1972 before losing to Levin in 1978.

Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or tspangler@freepress.com

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