Palestinian-American Justin Amash announces US Senate bid as Republican

Palestinian-American Justin Amash announces US Senate bid as Republican
Justin Amash, a former US Representative from western Michigan, whose parents are Palestinian and Syrian immigrants, has shared his plans to run for US Senate.
3 min read
Washington, DC
01 March, 2024
Justin Amash, son of a Palestinian refugee, has joined a crowded race for US Senate in Michigan. [Getty]

Justin Amash, a former US Representative from western Michigan whose parents are Palestinian and Syrian immigrants, has announced his plans to run for US Senate as a Republican.

The 43-year-old former congressman, who represented Grand Rapids from 2011 to 2021, shared his news on X, formerly Twitter, one month after saying he was considering running for the position to fill an open senate seat following the retirement of Democrat Debbie Stabenow.

"After thoroughly evaluating all aspects of a potential campaign, I'm convinced that no candidate would be better positioned to win both the Republican primary and the general election," he wrote on the social media platform, where his cover photo now reads: Justin Amash for Senate, on Thursday. "That's why, today, I'm making it official: I'm joining the race for United States Senate in Michigan."

He went on to say that his last few years away from Congress have given him the time to reflect on experiences that shaped his life, liberty, and what his time in office has meant to his community. He also invoked his family's Palestinian and Syrian backgrounds, an unusual move for Republicans, who have tended to keep their Arab backgrounds low-profile.

"My parents arrived in the United States as teenagers in search of a better future—my father, a Palestinian refugee, and my mother, a Syrian immigrant," he wrote. "They instilled in me a love for America and for the values and principles at the heart of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution."

In late October, Amash shared in a social media post that several members of his relatives, who had been sheltering in a church, had died in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza. 

"With great sadness, I have now confirmed that several of my relatives (including Viola and Yara pictured here) were killed at Saint Porphyrius Orthodox Church in Gaza, where they had been sheltering, when part of the complex was destroyed as the result of an Israeli airstrike," he wrote at the time.

Amash, who served ten years in the US House before resigning after he supported the impeachment of former President Donald Trump, changed his party affiliation to independent shortly before the end of his tenure. 

Though serving most of his career as a Republican, Amash, who has also identified as a Libertarian, has shared multiple positions, mainly on civil liberties, with Democrats and the left. These include: ending forever wars, ending the death penalty, repealing the Patriot Act, ending qualified immunity for government officials, legalising cannabis, and supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

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While many of his key positions align with the left, his Libertarian ideology, which advocates for dismantling social welfare and many basic government institutions, puts him mainly in the far-right conservative camp. When he entered the presidential race as a Libertarian in 2020, progressives warned those who might be "Amash curious" to steer clear of him due to his track record against supporting public institutions.

In January, as the Republican-majority House repeatedly failed to vote for a new leader, Amash wrote on social media that he would consider the position, which doesn't require holding office in the chamber.

As Amash enters Michigan's Senate race, he joins a crowded field of a dozen Republicans and four Democrats.