Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2010, 3rd term.

Born: April 18, 1980, Grand Rapids

Home: Cascade Charter Township

Education: U. of MI, A.B. 2002; J.D. 2005.

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 2006-07; consultant, MI Industrial Tools, 2005-10.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Christian

Family: Married (Kara) , 3 children

Justin Amash, a Republican who succeeded retiring GOP Rep. Vernon Ehlers, has distinguished himself as perhaps the most iconoclastic member of his iconoclastic class of 2010. A persistent thorn in the side of House GOP leaders, he was booted off the Budget Committee in November 2012 for his refusal to toe the party line, and then reportedly played a role in an abortive effort to depose John Boehner as speaker. He is often described as an intellectual heir to libertarian former Rep. Ron Paul, and like Paul has accumulated a national following.

Amash (uh-MOSH) was born in Grand Rapids in 1980, the son of a wealthy Palestinian tool importer who immigrated to the United States with the sponsorship of a Christian church. He began high school at the time of the Republican tidal wave of 1994 and graduated as class valedictorian. He then went on to graduate magna cum laude with a degree in economics from the University of Michigan and earned a degree from its law school in 2005. He counts himself as an admirer of both the 19th-century author Frederic Bastiat, who argued against taxing people to pay for schools or roads, and the 20th-century writer Friedrich Hayek, a favorite of the tea-party movement who strongly opposed government intervention in the economy. Amash kept Hayek’s portrait on the wall of his congressional campaign offices.

After graduating from college, he became a consultant to his family’s tool-import business. He also served as a corporate lawyer for a year before running for a seat in the Michigan House in 2008. As a legislator, Amash fought to eliminate state taxes on businesses. A proponent of states’ rights, he proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would prevent the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law. The Grand Rapids Press reported in July 2010 that Amash was the only “no” vote on 59 bills in his first term, including measures toughening penalties for human trafficking and allowing military members to get out of cell phone contracts if deployed overseas.

Amash entered the 3rd District race, he said, because he was fed up with eight-term incumbent Ehlers’s moderate voting record. But then, Ehlers announced his retirement. That opened the door for other Republican candidates, including former Kent County Commissioner Steve Heacock, whom Ehlers personally asked to run. In the primary race, Amash out-raised both Heacock and state Sen. Bill Hardiman, and he also won the backing of the anti-tax group Club for Growth. He won the August primary, getting 40% of the vote to Heacock’s 26% and Hardiman’s 24%.

His victory set up a general election race against Democratic lawyer Pat Miles, a former Harvard Law School classmate of Obama’s. Miles accused Amash of exporting jobs to China through his ownership of Dynamic Source International, a Chinese company that supplies industrial tools to his father’s tool-import business. “Instead of making American-made products made by American workers, Justin Amash has chosen Chinese workers to make products, which he then sells in America,” Miles campaign manager Lonny Paris told The Press. To dispel concerns he might be too liberal for the district, Miles said in October that he would not back liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi to remain House speaker if his party retained control of the House in 2010.

In his ads, Amash accused Miles of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions because he backed the Democrats’ health care overhaul. Amash got a boost when Time magazine named him to its recent “40 under 40” list of civic leaders. He won 60% of the vote to 37% for Miles.

In the House, Amash immediately displayed his independence by refusing to vote in favor of legislation he believed either was unconstitutional or not given adequate time for consideration, voting “present” on several bills on which Republicans hoped to present a united front. Fox News host Greta Van Susteren called him a “coward” for doing so. He was one of just 22 Republicans to oppose Boehner’s bill in July 2011 to raise the federal debt limit, later telling a local audience that the leadership urged him to back it because Obama disliked it. “Is this really the standard by which we should base our votes?” he asked.

The leadership let him offer amendments in June to a bill prohibiting the Transportation Security Administration from buying new full-body airport scanning machines and from requiring the machines to be used at primary screening checkpoints; both were defeated. Amash also introduced a balanced budget amendment that that would limit spending to the federal government’s average annual revenues for the previous three years. He deployed his Facebook page to detail his reasons for all of his actions and got into a “Facebook feud” with the National Rifle Association for opposing legislation in November that granted reciprocity for concealed weapons permits. He said the measure subverted states’ rights.

In 2012, Democrats thought they had a chance to defeat Amash by drawing alienated GOP moderates away from him, and primary voters nominated Steve Pestka, a former state representative, prosecutor, and judge. He criticized Amash for his contrarian votes and began climbing in the polls after loaning his campaign more than $1 million out of his own pocket. Amash beat Pestka by a decisive but not overwhelming 53%-44%, with a Libertarian candidate drawing 3%. Pestka edged out Amash in Battle Creek-based Calhoun County, but Grand Rapids’ Kent County hewed to its historic tendency to vote decisively Republican.

Returning to Washington for a lame-duck session after the election, Amash learned that the Boehner-controlled Republican Steering Committee had taken him off Budget, making him one of four Republicans to receive such punishment. He called it “a slap in the face” to the GOP’s expanding libertarian faction. News accounts named him as a central figure in an attempt to persuade fellow Republicans to vote against Boehner for speaker, but the effort collapsed shortly before the vote when the group could not secure the 25 votes they believed were needed. Amash voted for Idaho Republican Raúl Labrador, reportedly another coup organizer, while getting one vote himself from Kentucky freshman Thomas Massie.

Amash was mentioned as a possibility for the Senate seat being vacated in 2015 by retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, but said in September 2013 that he wouldn't seek the job. He became one of the House's leading champions of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden after Snowden leaked details of the agency's domestic surveillance efforts. He managed to unite the Republican leadership and the White House against him when he proposed an amendment in July to strip funding for an NSA phone-surveillance program; it fell short by just 12 votes.

Establishment Republicans took another run at Amash in the 2014 primary. Their candidate was Brian Ellis, who served on the East Grand Rapids school board and who drew is quiet support from Chamber of Commerce-types at the local and federal levels. Ellis repeatedly criticized what he called Amash's "bizarre" voting record. But Amash's allies in the anti-tax group Club for Growth began running ads in early 2014 bashing Ellis for "leaving massive deficits" on the school board and serving on a panel appointed by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm that "wasted taxpayer dollars on a golf resort."

Amash and other like-minded conservatives also cried foul at an attack ad calling the congressman "al-Qaida's best friend in Congress." Citing his Palestinian-American heritage, Amash called the ad "disgusting." He prevailed in the August primary, 57%-43%, and lashed out at Ellis as well as former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who had announced he would support the challenger. "I want to say to lobbyist Pete Hoekstra, you’re a disgrace,” Amash said. “I’m glad we can hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance.”

 

 

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3831

(202) 225-5144

CHOB- Cannon House Office Building Room 114
Washington, DC 20515-2203

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3831

(202) 225-5144

CHOB- Cannon House Office Building Room 114
Washington, DC 20515-2203

DISTRICT OFFICE

(616) 451-8383

(616) 454-5630

110 Michigan Street, NW Suite 460
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2313

DISTRICT OFFICE

(616) 451-8383

(616) 454-5630

110 Michigan Street, NW Suite 460
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2313

DISTRICT OFFICE

(269) 205-3823

70 West Michigan Avenue Suite 212
Battle Creek, MI 49017-3619

DISTRICT OFFICE

(269) 205-3823

70 West Michigan Avenue Suite 212
Battle Creek, MI 49017-3619

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

1500 East Beltline Avenue, SE Suite 250
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

1500 East Beltline Avenue, SE Suite 250
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Kelly Miller
Legislative Aide

Agriculture

Matt Weibel
Administrative Director; Policy Advisor

Budget

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Campaign

Matt Weibel
Administrative Director; Policy Advisor

Commerce

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Economics

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Education

Matt Weibel
Administrative Director; Policy Advisor

Energy

Matt Weibel
Administrative Director; Policy Advisor

Environment

Matt Weibel
Administrative Director; Policy Advisor

Family

Matt Weibel
Administrative Director; Policy Advisor

Kelly Miller
Legislative Aide

Govt Ops

Matt Weibel
Administrative Director; Policy Advisor

Gun Issues

Carolyn Iodice
Legislative Assistant

Health

Carolyn Iodice
Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

Poppy Nelson
Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Housing

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Human Rights

Carolyn Iodice
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Poppy Nelson
Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Kelly Miller
Legislative Aide

Intelligence

Poppy Nelson
Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Labor

Carolyn Iodice
Legislative Assistant

Military

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Social Security

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Tax

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Technology

Carolyn Iodice
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Carolyn Iodice
Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Veterans

Jim Beley
Legislative Assistant

jim.beley@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3831

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Justin Amash
Votes: 171,675
Percent: 52.62%
Steve Pestka
Votes: 144,108
Percent: 44.17%
2012 PRIMARY
Justin Amash
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Justin Amash
Votes: 133,714
Percent: 59.68%
Pat Miles
Votes: 83,953
Percent: 37.47%
2010 PRIMARY
Justin Amash
Votes: 38,569
Percent: 40.35%
Steve Heacock
Votes: 25,157
Percent: 26.32%
William Hardiman
Votes: 22,715
Percent: 23.76%
Robert Overbeek
Votes: 5,133
Percent: 5.37%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (60%)

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