GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Republican who wants Rep. Justin Amash’s House seat said Friday that his staff has been in touch with President Trump’s campaign and an official with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) seeking their support.
Michigan state Rep. Jim Lower — who had announced his candidacy before Amash (Mich.) quit the GOP this week — is hoping for backing from the president and top Republican leaders as he describes himself as the only candidate who has not criticized Trump once.
Privately, however, national Republicans said Friday that they expect other candidates to enter the race. The National Republican Congressional Committee has not made an endorsement as it seeks to steer clear of picking sides in primaries.
Amash, the sole Republican congressman to accuse Trump of impeachable acts, announced Thursday that he was leaving the party and becoming an independent, writing in a Washington Post op-ed that he was frightened by a two-party system that has “evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.”
Top GOP leaders in the House have had no immediate public reaction to his decision to abandon the party. But Amash had already drawn opposition from Trump and Republicans for a series of tweets in May backing impeachment, and his departure from the party will probably set off a scramble among other Republicans eager to replace him.
Lower said his campaign operation reached out to the Trump campaign around June 13 after the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., signaled in a tweet that he planned to campaign for Lower.
“I said we would love to have an endorsement. I think they’re considering it,” Lower, who was elected to the Michigan House in 2016, said in an interview.
Amash, 39, who is serving his fourth term, has not announced whether he will run again and has acknowledged he is considering running for president as a member of the Libertarian Party.
Hours after Amash’s declaration on Thursday, Trump tweeted: “Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party. No Collusion, No Obstruction! Knew he couldn’t get the nomination to run again in the Great State of Michigan. Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser!”
Lower suggested Amash left the GOP because he would have a hard time winning the Republican primary.
Citing poll results showing Amash trailing, Lower said the incumbent “had no way to win the Republican nomination. We’re already way up.”
In addition to reaching out to the Trump campaign, Lower said he met with a member of McCarthy’s staff when he was in Washington on June 17. A spokesman for McCarthy had no immediate comment on Friday.
An official with the House GOP campaign committee said a regional representative will be in Michigan next week for meetings with potential candidates as the party seeks to hold the seat.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe internal strategy.
Rachael Bade in Washington contributed to this report.