Justin Amash Defends Congress' Only Libertarian Seat

Democrats (and at least one moderate Republican) are taking aim at the "next Ron Paul."


Justin Amash is struggling to hold his seat in Congress.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), who rode to Congress in 2010 on the national wave of outrage over Obamacare and government spending, could face a tough challenge to his seat this November.

Amash scored a commanding win in a five-way Republican primary in 2010, and went on to win easily in the general election. Michigan's Third Congressional District was heavily Republican and had a history of favoring libertarian Republicans like Amash.

Now the district has been redrawn with more Democrats, and Amash's principled voting record in the House has alienated some members of his own party. Amash, who is described by many (including as the next Ron Paul, is looking at a potentially tough reelection fight in Michigan.

Democrat Steve Pestka, like Amash, has very deep roots in Michigan's Third District.

Pestka spent most of his adult life in the public eye, as an assistant district attorney, elected county official, state representative, and most recently as a Michigan Circuit Court judge. During that time he practiced law on the side but eventually stepped down as a judge in 2009 to get more involved with his father's real estate business. Now, three years later, the socially conservative Democrat is jumping back into the public eye and running for Congress.

Pestka's campaign excites Michigan Democrats. "Pestka may have started late but he is definitely on people's radar," said Todd Cook of Mainstreet Strategies, a Michigan consulting firm.  

"A lot of Democrats here in the state definitely see this seat as a potential pickup," said Joe DiSano, Cook's partner at Mainstreet.

The most recent fundraising numbers for the candidates in the Third show how Pestka's run is picking up steam. Though he only entered the race in early March, Pestka raised over $218,000 in his first month. (That figure includes a personal loan to the campaign of $70,000, and substantial giving by a handful of people named Pestka.) Pestka has $195,509 on hand and $78,468 in debt.

Meanwhile, Amash's war chest is light. In the first quarter of 2012 the freshman congressman raised $139,451. He has $200,551 on hand with $150,000 in campaign debt. 

Amash does have the comfort of not facing a primary challenge. Pestka is being challenged by Trevor Thomas, a former local TV news producer and aide to former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. (In order to skew its influence in the presidential primary, the Motor State now holds votes in February and August [pdf], a practice that, counting the November general election, will require voters to turn out to the polls no fewer than thee times this year.)

Thomas entered the race late, too, and raised slightly over $100,000, of which only $2,012 is from Thomas himself. Thomas has attacked Pestka for his positions on abortion and, in particular, a 2001 vote on funding for Planned Parenthood. He has picked up some attention from prominent liberal blogs nationally for his positions but he has some local Republican backers, too.

Former Kent County Republican Party Chairman Bob Eleveld is backing Thomas because of his pro-choice stance on abortion and his dissatisfaction with Amash.

"Amash is not loved by the party. He's a strong Ron Paul guy, he's really a libertarian in Republican clothing," said Eleveld, a member of Thomas' finance committee and self-described moderate Republican.

When asked whom he would back in a race is between pro-life Amash and pro-life Pestka, Eleveld said he wasn't sure what he would do.

"Maybe an independent will get in," he said.

Other Michigan Republicans are, as one would expect, brushing off the Democratic challenges to Amash.

"He might do some things that are untraditional but it is tough to see this really become a race.  If he faced a primary opponent it would be a different story," said Stu Sandler of Decider Strategies, a Michigan consulting firm.

There were rumblings that Amash would face a challenger in the Republican primary, but none emerged.

"Most Republican primary challenges come from the right, not the center," said Sandler.

The only polling on the race shows Amash up on Pestka by 11 percent but when those surveyed were presented with more information that gap closed to two percent. 

Cook Political Report rates the race as competitive but rates it "Likely Republican" with a partisan voter index of +6 in favor of the GOP. 

"Pestka will make him work hard and not take anything for granted but this race isn't going anywhere. This contest is one step below a foregone conclusion. Still, Amash has not done enough to squash the talk of this race being competitive," said Jake Davison of Advantage Associates, a Lansing based consulting firm.

The National Republican Congressional Committee said that they were watching the race but were not overly concerned. The bulk of their resources in Michigan are currently being deployed in the Upper Peninsula, helping reelect freshman Congressman Dan Benishek in the First Congressional District.

"It's definitely on the watch list," said NRCC deputy communications director Andrea Bozek.

NEXT: Aided by Super PAC, Pot Legalizer Defeats Drug Warrior in Texas Congressional Primary

Campaigns/Elections Election 2012 Justin Amash Libertarianism Republican Party Tea Party Ron Paul Congress Democratic Party

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79 responses to “Justin Amash Defends Congress' Only Libertarian Seat

  1. Republicans are their own worst enemies. They either embrace Libertarians, or we jump ship and become a 3rd major party. They simply cannot maintain control for more than a decade or two more against the tide of youngsters with more Libertarian views. The drug war and foreign wars have fallen out of the mainstream. What are they going to use to maintain power now? SoCon shit? Yeah, right.

    The only thing that makes me hestitant about radical life extension technology is that we shouldn’t allow it until all old fuckheads like Orrin Hatch have died off.

    1. Well said.

      Democrats long ago gave up the pretense of representing libertarian ideals, and it’s about time we wake up and realize that the Republicans have done the same.

      I know that this discussion is frequently being had here and elsewhere, but it’s reached a point where I think the Libertarian party and libertarianism has become a viable third options. Unfortunately, people don’t want to jump on board yet. A lot of libertarian Republicans are fed up with the party, but the idea that our defecting could let an even bigger government liberal win is too appalling for most of us to take.

      If someone like Ross Perot can generate enough support to be a viable third-party candidate, why can’t the LP!? We have a fantastic candidate in Johnson, but is there really no one with deep pockets willing to fund him?

      1. We have a fantastic candidate in Johnson, but is there really no one with deep pockets willing to fund him?

        I’d ask first why no one with deep pockets is willing to fund Justin Amash. From the article, looks like he could use the cash.

        I’d like to keep him in Congress.

        1. I think reason is overstating the worry for Amash. He won the last election by more than 20 points. It’s going to take more than a well funded Dem to beat him. The additional Ds that have been redistricted into his district aren’t nearly as significant as reason makes them out to be.

          1. But, as the article stated, the district has been redrawn since the last election, so there are not the same people voting.

      2. Yes, Gary Johnson is a very credible candidate. He should poll 15% no doubt.

        But he isn’t.

        1. If Johnson could get into a debate, I think you’d see this election would change overnight. I don’t know that we’d get the pie-in-the-sky scenario of a possible Johnson victory, but at least he would help raise awareness that a third party exists, not just some independent candidate.

          1. Except that he did poorly in the republican debates that he was in.

            1. I don’t think he did that poorly. I didn’t know anything about him, but it was the debates that introduced him to me, and made him my favorite GOP candidate. Unfortunately, he didn’t get very much time to debate, and was only able to participate in a handful of debates. Assuming that he was given at least some time to answer–and wasn’t treated like window dressing–at a presidential debate, then I think people would warm to him. Furthermore, he’s a much more experienced candidate now.

              1. I’m going to vote for him in November. But I wish that he had run for senate from NM as a republican this year. He would have won and we need him there.

                1. Exactly.

                  I’d rather have him in the Senate, than tilting at windmills. He can run for President, a few years down the road — and being a Senator gives someone more name recognition, more of a record, and a better resume than being a failed 3rd party Don Quixote who has returned to private life in New Mexico.

            2. He only did “poorly” in the eyes of imbeciles and irrational statist fucks.

              1. The voters, you say?

          2. I like Gary Johnson and will vote for him in the Fall, but he’s not a great debater nor a great politician (which would be a compliment if he weren’t running for office).

            1. Not a “great debater” nor a “great politician?” Seriously?? His only faults appear to be rationality and honesty which apparently do not appeal to the average retarded American voter. If he has to change these to become a “great debater” or “great politician,” then he becomes just like all the other corrupt imbeciles running for office. And then there’s no fucking point in him running. So please quit spouting all this BS about him not being a “great debater” or “great politician.” He should continue to espouse intelligent, rational and honest viewpoints. And hopefully voters will eventually appreciate such a “great debater and politician.” Otherwise, we’re fucked. Which is probably the case, anyway.

        2. He can’t right now. He has to get Ron Paul supporters. I wish that Paul would endorse him, but I dunno, there’s all this talk about his sons future in the GOP. I’ve already made up my mind, if Ron Paul is not the GOP nominee, Johnson has my vote.

    2. What’s your evidence that drug and foreign wars have fallen out of the mainstream?

      1. 56% for legal pot.


        66% against the Afghan War.

        Support for the Iraq War was that low in 2011, too.

  2. I hope Amash holds on to his seat. If you haven’t checked it out, Amash posts a quick, paragraph-long summary of how he votes and why for every issue in the house. It’s refreshing to have a politician who is so open and transparent about why he votes the way he does.

    Whether or not you agree with all his politics, he is a breath of fresh air in a stale institution. Amash might not be the next Ron Paul, but his openness and candidness do represent the direction that Congress will have to go if they ever want to reclaim themselves in the public eye.

    1. he is a breath of fresh air in a stale institution.

      which is exactly why the team structure cannot abide the likes of him, and probably why the media – MSM or alternative – is doing likewise. These groups all depend on and, therefore, defend, their particular traditions and a guy like Amash shocks the system.

      1. Amash is TEAM RED. The article names one local GOP moderate pol who considers him to be too “right wing”.

        1. Technically, libertarianism is really, in some of its purer forms, extreme right-wingism.

          Now, on a few issues, the situation is confused, like abortion, but there aren’t that many votes on abortion, so, it doesn’t totally skew the numbers.

          Here is an analysis, done via mathematical formula, using a rank ordering system, of everyone who has served in Congress for the last 75 years. You can see, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, that Ron Paul, Flake and Shadegg are all there.

          There is basically one dimension in elite (Congressional politics), and it can be summed up on how you answer the question “Should the Federal government …” and, interjecting, Ron Paul will say no, before the question is fully answered.

          Most extreme left wingers? John Conyers and Maxine Waters, who want the government to do a lot more for poor people.

  3. And that’s not even counting the Republicans who are so incensed by the “libertarian in Republican clothing” that they have lined up with Democrats against Amash.

    That’s really all you need to know about Red vs. Blue in America. They make all this hay about how different they are, and how the other guys are responsible for all the ills in this country, but when it comes down to it, they’ll pick a statist over a supporter of liberty every time.

    1. The Kent County Republican Party really didn’t back Amash the first time, and some prominent people in the county GOP ran ads supporting the Democrat in 2010. The bigger issue there is that the Kent County GOP leadership is really far more liberal than the voters there (in more northern parts of the state, they’d probably be Democrats).

    2. Indeed.

      Of course, it also belies the talk above in this thread of libertarians jumping ship and becoming a 3rd major party. Unfortunately, libertarianism isn’t popular enough.

      Plenty of people are “yes, but..” libertarians. They claim to be generally in favor of libertarianism, but for that one issue that just keeps them voting for a safe bipartisan consensus statist. Libertarianism for themselves, who will make smart decision, but paternalism and statism for those irritating other people who make the wrong choices.

      Had a friend on Facebook make a post talking about how he understood all the arguments about how school choice might help the poor, the problems with teachers unions, etc., but he just was absolutely against the idea because he couldn’t stand the idea of some Christians using it to do stuff he couldn’t like. (There’s the voice of someone who always expects to be in the majority, with the group making the decisions.)

      1. Libertarianism isn’t about Religion. His arguments are just poor.

    3. “when it comes down to it, they’ll pick a statist over a supporter of liberty every time”

      That, plus the decision by the popular press to dumb down every issue to “left vs right” and never mention that there entirely different dimensions that might be considered (libertarian vs. statist). Ron Paul has largely been acknowledged by the media only for “comic relief” (in their oh-so-wise eyes).

      But if all of us would assist Amash and Rand Paul to just stay where they are, it would at least be moral victory.

  4. Why is strategic and continual redrawing of congressional districts legal?

    1. Ask the people who make the laws.

    2. How else would you have it done?

      Assuming that each member of the house should represent approximately the same number of constituents, then the districts have to be redrawn, like it or not. And since that redrawing is done by people with interests, they will use strategy to maximize those interests.

      1. Then I guess my question should be: who’s for abolishing the House and keeping just the Senate?

        1. What!?

          Why would you want to go to a unicameral system without any semblance of population representation?

          1. Because the population doesn’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to picking representation. The senate went downhill when it went to popular voting instead of being selected by the states; that was the death of the 10th amendment.

            1. In what way did the senate go “downhill”? People, like the states, pick both good and bad representation.

              1. Hey, Randian, I’m for a bigger House, or something like it, too.

                Do you have any idea how they justify saying

                The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights intended that the total population of Congressional districts never exceed 50 to 60 thousand.

            2. The states didn’t have a good track record either. There were loads of problems with the Senate before the progs got their direct election wish.

              All the 17th amendment did was make the Senate’s problems perfectly match the House’s problems.

              1. Basically, it was much easier to bribe and bully a couple hundred lawmakers than it was to bribe and bully a few hundred thousand citizens, and, as a result, lots of Senators were simply paying to be elected.

                I guess, since it is neither force nor fraud, that’s OK with you lot.

      2. How else would you have it done?

        Easy – require them to be squares, with only so much deviation (X percentage) per side.

        Does that eliminate the games? no, but it cuts down on the proverbial Gerrymander.

        1. I like this idea, though the algorithmic implementation does have some unfortunate consequences (for example, several of Colorado’s districts would be vast swaths of sparsely populated wilderness together with one neighborhood of Denver).

        2. It’s a math problem.

          You maximize compactness of the region.

          However, it isn’t geographical compactness, but human transportation compactness which is the real issue. Minimize the length of time it would take everyone in the district to get to any particular point in the district.

      3. each state’s districts could be drawn from their respective geographic centers along congruent lines until every district’s population is equal. The problem legally, is supreme court rulings about the demographic consistencies and districts drawn to protect incumbents (which is perfectly legal). On this issue, it’s the SCOTUS fucking the voters.

        1. Right, you have to create majority-minority districts which have a big enough minority majority that they’re sure to elect a minority.

          I recall some controversy because while the Hispanic district around Corpus Christi elected a Hispanic as requested in 2010, folks assumed it wasn’t representing Hispanics because the guy is a Republican…

          1. You should have a look at the metro detroit districts on the new map. Especially Hansen Clark’s district, and the other two or three that spiral around it. Essentially, they took the northern half of Detroit and connected it to Pontiac with a very thin, windy twindy strip, just so they could keep the district as minority-majority.


      Because the alternatives are not much better.

      1. California’s “independent” redistricting commission
        “The redistricting commission, in drawing congressional districts in South Central Los Angeles, chose to violate both their own mandate and the Federal Voting Rights Act in order to protect a set of incumbent legislators.”

    4. Must be City Journal night here. There’s a longer article in the current CJ on re-districting. Doesn’t specifically mention MI, but you’ll get the idea:…..cting.html

    5. It’s legal because it benefits the people who make the laws.

      It’s constitutional because the Founders had a brainfart. They realized it pretty quickly, but it was too late; gerrymandering is named after a politician from the early Republic who pioneered it.

      1. The USSC also enshrined “incumbent protection” as a valid aim in redistricting.

  5. The only polling on the race shows Amash up on Pestka by 11 percent but when those surveyed were presented with more information that gap closed to two percent.

    I bet the “more information” presented to survey respondents had nothing to do with his voting on spending and tax increase proposals….

    Fortunately, most voters know very little about the candidates they vote for. Once you win in the primary with light opposition, you’re home free.

    1. The polling showed him in more or less a dead heat going into the election last time, and he won by a landslide (roughly a 2:1 margin). Speaking as someone who’s lived in Michigan most of their life, polling here is rarely anything resembling reliable.

      1. This.

        Amash is not in much jeopardy of losing his seat. If he is complacent, then sure, it could happen. But he’s not, he’s going to advertise, and you’ll see him win. As soon as the RNC kicks into high gear its national campaigns about how a D congress would make America Socialist and kill babies, you’ll see at least a few of those moderate Republicans jump back on board the Amash train.

  6. “Most Republican primary challenges come from the right, not the center,” said Sandler.

    So Amash isn’t facing a primary challenger because no one is conservative enough to get to the right of him and he leads his likely Democrat Party opponent by 11%. Sounds like a safe seat.

  7. Justin Amash is a HIGHLY principled Republican. His “Libertarian-leaning” soul is a crystal shard in black heart of Washington, good-old-boy, partisan politics!

  8. Amash is a very important candidate. We cannot afford to lose him. Fuck the Dems that are running against him, we need to pour a lot of energy into this guys re-elecion and not take any chances. We have all of how many Libertarians in Congress now, 3? Down to 2 after senior Paul retires. No wonder Reason is highlighting this, it really does matter.

    1. If it wasn’t for the PATRIOT Act and DOMA, I think we’d be talking about Jeff Flake as one of them.

      1. Can’t remember, did he vote for NDAA?

        1. Ah, he did. So there’s that too.

          1. Well, that right there, that’s the deal breaker…

      2. Flake is less “libertarian-leaning” than Michele Bachmann.

        1. Still pimpin’ that ol’ whore, eh?

          1. My statement is true.I never understood what Reason saw in Flake. Compare his record to Bachmann’s. They’re both “less bad” than most of their GOP peers.

        2. I used to like Flake, but then I saw that he has a lush, green lawn in the middle of the Arizona desert, no doubt fed by sucking the Colorado River dry.

          Fuck him.

      3. Didn’t RP vote for DOMA as well?

  9. Justin Amash Defends Congress’ Only Libertarian Seat

    Ummmm, what? I just now noticed that, before when I looked I could have sworn the title was different…

    Only Libertarian seat? Both of the Pauls are dead, or what?

    1. There’s no “Libertarian seat”. They are all Republicans. “Gay-hating” Republicans that want to force women to carry their parasites to

      1. Yes, because supporting the right to life is soooo “anti-libertarian.” lol

  10. ormer Kent County Republican Party Chairman Bob Eleveld is backing Thomas because of his pro-choice stance on abortion and his dissatisfaction with Amash.

  11. He is congress representer and he is defending the party seats,

  12. Amash is my rep – I may have to go against my principles and make a donation / help his campaign.

    1. Amen, Humungus. I’m in his district too and will give what I can and spread the word.

  13. “Amash is not loved by the party. He’s a strong Ron Paul guy, he’s really a libertarian in Republican clothing,” said Eleveld, a member of Thomas’ finance committee and self-described moderate Republican democrat in Republican clothing.


    Since there’s even less of a difference between “moderate Republican” and “Democrat” than there is between garden variety Republicans and Democrats, this would seem to be a more accurate description.

  14. They do indeed seem to know which way is up lol.

  15. It’s strange to talk about “X in Republican clothing” when the clothing is all there is to Republicans in the first place.

  16. The only polling on the race shows Amash up on Pestka by 11 percent but when those surveyed were presented with more information that gap closed to two percent.

    WTF? What information?

    I guess if Amash is way ahead in the poll they replace it with a push poll to make the race seem closer.

  17. I love me some Justin Amash! I’m in his district, and don’t normally give to political candidates, but will make an exception this time around. I voted against him but glad he came in. He’s principled and young. Very rare these days.

  18. Now the district has been redrawn with more Democrats, and Amash’s principled voting record in the House has alienated…..c-3_5.html some members of his own party. Amash, who is described by many (including as the next Ron Paul, is looking at a potentially tough reelection fight in Michigan.

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