Justin Amash Will Not Run for Senate in Michigan

Young libertarian feared losing the influence he has gained among House conservatives.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. walks through a basement tunnel to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, for the vote on his amendment to the Defense spending bill that would cut funding to the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program. The White House and congressional backers of the NSA's electronic surveillance program are warning that ending the massive collection of phone records from millions of Americans would put the nation at risk from another terrorist attack. 
National Journal
Tim Alberta
Sept. 17, 2013, 4:32 p.m.

Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigan Re­pub­lic­an who has es­tab­lished him­self as the lead­ing liber­tari­an in the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives, will not run for U.S. Sen­ate in 2014, ac­cord­ing to sev­er­al sources fa­mil­i­ar with the con­gress­man’s de­cision.

Amash was temp­ted by the al­lure of a cam­paign for high­er of­fice, sources say, but the second-term law­maker ul­ti­mately was un­will­ing to risk sur­ren­der­ing the clout he en­joys among con­ser­vat­ives in the GOP-con­trolled House. (His ad­visers also didn’t like the un­cer­tain in­tern­al polling against his ex­pec­ted gen­er­al-elec­tion con­tender, but sources say that didn’t af­fect Amash’s de­cision.)

Hav­ing entered the 113th Con­gress as a back­bench­er known primar­ily for buck­ing GOP lead­er­ship, Amash’s in­flu­ence has in­creased dra­mat­ic­ally in re­cent months, thanks mainly to his mid­sum­mer of­fens­ive aimed at de­fund­ing the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s con­tro­ver­sial do­mest­ic sur­veil­lance pro­grams. That ef­fort failed by 12 votes, but Amash was lauded by law­makers on both sides of the aisle for his cour­age in chal­len­ging Wash­ing­ton’s most power­ful in­sti­tu­tions. In tak­ing on the White House, the Pentagon and his own party’s lead­er­ship—and al­most win­ning—Amash had sud­denly ce­men­ted his status as a play­er in the lower cham­ber.

“Justin feels that he’s hit­ting his stride in the House, and that it’s the best place for him right now,” said one source close to Amash.

Amash first signaled in­terest in a Sen­ate cam­paign back in March, when Demo­crat­ic Sen. Carl Lev­in an­nounced his re­tire­ment. Amid sev­er­al months of bullish state­ments about the race, Amash launched a na­tion­al mail cam­paign and began or­gan­iz­ing fun­drais­ing events out­side of his west Michigan dis­trict—typ­ic­ally sure signs of someone lay­ing the ground­work for a statewide bid.

But as the sum­mer months dragged on, Amash’s in­terest in the race began to wane. In June, he learned that his ideo­lo­gic­al ad­versary, House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mike Ro­gers, was stay­ing out of the GOP primary—rob­bing Amash of some of his in­cent­ive to run. Then, over the next month, Amash be­came con­sumed with the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency de­bate in Con­gress, de­vot­ing weeks of time and en­ergy to the amend­ment he would later at­tach to the De­fense De­part­ment ap­pro­pri­ations bill. (Iron­ic­ally, the NSA fight af­forded Amash the show­down with Ro­gers he was hop­ing the Sen­ate race would provide.)

By the time Au­gust ar­rived, Amash had thor­oughly con­sidered both sides of the race and was lean­ing strongly against run­ning. But a fi­nal de­cision was re­peatedly delayed, sources say, by Amash’s com­pet­it­ive streak. He con­duc­ted ex­tens­ive in­tern­al polling that showed him run­ning com­fort­ably ahead of a weak GOP primary field, but the num­bers on a gen­er­al-elec­tion match­up were more muddled. Both he and Rep. Gary Peters, the de facto Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee, were un­known to many voters statewide, and that lack of defin­i­tion was trouble­some to Amash’s trus­ted circle of ad­visers. They used the num­bers to jus­ti­fy the con­clu­sion Amash had all but reached: Giv­ing up his House seat to run for Sen­ate was not a risk worth tak­ing to win a Demo­crat­ic seat in a state that has trended blue in re­cent elec­tions.

Amash ul­ti­mately agreed, and in the last 48 hours fi­nal­ized his de­cision not to run.

Amash joins Ro­gers and Reps. Dave Camp and Can­dice Miller on the list of high-pro­file Michigan Re­pub­lic­ans to pass on the Sen­ate cam­paign, leav­ing former Sec­ret­ary of State Terri Lynn Land as the only prom­in­ent GOP can­did­ate in the race. Land lives in Amash’s dis­trict, and the two have a pro­fes­sion­al re­la­tion­ship. But Amash, ac­cord­ing to sources, has not yet de­term­ined wheth­er he will en­dorse Land.

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