There are ten people in the running for Michigan's Third Congressional district: Six Republicans, four Democrats and one Independent.
Rep. Justin Amash has represented Michigan’s Third Congressional district since 2011, when he was elected to office in a wave of Tea Party Republicans. However, Amash announced on July 4 that he is leaving the Republican Party and becoming an Independent.
The party switch puts Amash in an interesting position, but the 3rd Congressional district is also an interesting area. While Amash’s seat has been reliably red for decades, the district has voted blue in other elections.
However, the 3rd District has never elected in an independent.
Here is an overview of the 3rd District, how it has voted in past elections, and who is trying to represent it.
What is the 3rd District?
The 3rd Congressional district covers a large swath of West Michigan, including Ionia, Barry, and Calhoun counties and portions of Kent and Montcalm counties. Grand Rapids is the biggest metropolitan area in the district.
In 2015, there were just over 730,000 people in the Third District.
How does the 3rd District usually vote?
In the 2018 election, the district re-elected incumbent Congressman Amash with 54% of the vote. He beat out the Democratic candidate, Cathy Albro, who got 43% of the vote.
In that election, about two-thirds of the voters came from Kent County. Also in 2018, Kent County voted for Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Republican candidate for attorney general Tom Leonard. This shows that neither Republicans or Democrats are getting elected in across the board.
The next largest contingent of voters came from Calhoun County, with about 25 percent.
Going back to the 2016 election, Kent County voted for Republican President Donald Trump. Hilary Clinton lost the county to Trump by about 3% of votes.
The 3rd Congressional district seat has been filled by a Republican since 1993—up until Amash left the party on Thursday.
Who is in the running for the 3rd District’s seat in Congress?
While Amash has been elected to Congress by West Michigan voters five times, the 2020 election would have been the first time he’d face a Republican primary challenger since 2014.
There are currently six Republicans fighting for a spot in the general election in 2020, four Democrats have announced a run, and Amash as an Independent.
Here is an overview of everyone in the running:
Rep. Justin Amash
Amash has the advantage as the incumbent congressman in the Third District.
After leaving the Republican Party, he confirmed that he will still running for re-election in the district as an Independent.
“I intend to be an independent representing my district. I will represent my constituents the way I think is right, which is to follow the Constitution and make sure everyone in the community is represented. Not just one party or the other party, which is how it is in Washington these days, I want to represent every member of my community,” he said about his plans moving forward.
When Amash left the GOP, he faced some criticism that he did it to avoid losing a primary challenge. But he refutes that idea, saying it’s a primary he would win.
“You have a lot of people dividing up the pro-Trump vote saying they are owing their allegiance to Donald Trump. And I’m saying, my allegiance is to the Constitution and to the people of the district. And I think it’s easier to see which position wins out in the primary.”
Norton is a Republican from Sand Lake. He was the former Sand Lake Village President and he is an war veteran.
He announced his run in April, weeks before Amash made national headlines for his analysis on the Mueller report.
“The constituents in the 3rd District deserve real representation,” said Norton in May. “Somebody who is going to focus on veterans, fair trade and support the President of the United States.”
State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis
First-term state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis was the third Republican to join the race.
She says she is running to ensure the continuation of America's revival, not to work "against it."
On Thursday, after Amash left the GOP, Afendoulis said she was feeling good about her campaign.
"I'm feeling confident."
Afendoulis currently represents Grand Rapids in the state house.
RELATED: Afendoulis enters race against Amash
The biggest name in the primary is Peter Meijer, the grandson of Fred Meijer who found the Midwest grocery store chain and the son of Hank Meijer, the current CEO of Meijer.
Meijer, 31, announced his campaign on July 3—the day before Amash left the GOP. He has made his military service a key component of the campaign, saying he wants to bring the “voice of the post-9/11 veteran to Congress."
The candidate also said he wants to be a member of Congress who supports and works with the president. He also said he wants to bring West Michigan values to Washington.
Langlois is a Grand Rapids businessman who is the president of the DeltaPlex Area. He announced his candidacy for Congress on Tuesday.
He described himself as being a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, and he hosted Trump at the DeltaPlex Arena during the 2016 election. Langlois has never held political office before, but he said he wants to use his business experience in Washington.
"We need a U.S. Congress and local congressman who will stand up for our conservative principles and have the President’s back," he said in a release.
He jumped into the race just days after sitting Congressman Amash left the Republican Party—leaving that spot in the race wide open for a member of the GOP.
Andrew Willis is a West Michigan native who attended Cornerstone University. He announced his candidacy in late-October with a video on YouTube.
A key component of Willis' campaign is that he will only be accepting small donations.
"I intended to do things differently from the first moment of my campaign," Willis said in his campaign announcement. "I will accept no more than $20 from any individual or entity for the primary. And I will accept no more than $20 from any individual or entity for the general election."
Willis currently lives in Rockford, and he is a father to eight.
Joe Farrington, from Lyons, Mich. filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC in October.
Farrington previously ran against Amash in 2018 as a write-in candidate. He calls himself a "working-class Republican."
Scholten, a Grand Rapids resident, is an immigration lawyer who served in the Justice Department during President Barack Obama's administration.
This year, the 37-year-old also represented Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a military veteran and U.S. citizen who was arrested and held in ICE detention.
She says her goals include fixing the country's "broken" immigration system and curbing gun violence.
Amanda Le'Anne Brunzell
Brunzell filed her statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on April 2.
She is a US Navy Veteran who has been active in politics and community organizing. One of her focuses is veterans issues.
A Battle Creek resident, Emily Rafi, is running as a democrat for the 3rd Congressional seat. Rafi filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC in July.
The student debt crisis, healthcare reform and tax reform are focuses of her campaign.
Who has dropped out of the race?
One democratic candidate, Doug Booth, did drop of out of the race in August. He said this contest will be too expensive for his campaign. Booth said that "as a working class person," he is unable to take unpaid work off to run a campaign that "residents of the 3rd District deserve and need at this time."
State Rep. Jim Lower ended his campaign in November after being one of the first Republicans to challenge Amash for his seat. Lower said "big changes in our family" prompted him to drop out of the race as well as a concern for being able to compete financially against other candidates.
Former Obama staffer and attorney Nick Colvin dropped out of the race in February. Similar to Booth and Lower, Colvin cited financial concerns as a reason for ending his campaign. That was after he raised over $100,000 in the first 12 days of his campaign.
This story will be continually updated if candidates are added to the race or if candidates end their campaigns.
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