Rep. Justin Amash (L-MI) has joined the Libertarian Party as a member, according to a report by Detroit News and a tweet by the party’s national chairman.
The report stated that Amash joined the party on his 40th birthday on April 18, prior to his decision to announce an exploratory committee for President. Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark subsequently confirmed Amash’s membership on Twitter.
He is a sustaining member of the Libertarian Party and eligible to be nominated at convention.
— Nicholas Sarwark (@nsarwark) April 29, 2020
This marks the first time ever that the Libertarian Party has secured a defection from an incumbent member of Congress, albeit an outgoing one. Amash is now the only member of Congress affiliated with a party other than the major two parties.
Several former members of Congress have participated in the Libertarian Party for various periods of time, such as Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK), Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). However, this was always after their tenure in Congress under a different party affiliation had ended. Most libertarian-minded politicians joined one of the two major parties, typically the Republican Party, to get elected to Congress, and several have since emerged as key allies of President Donald Trump.
Sarwark suggested that it is not guaranteed that Amash would secure the nomination.
“It’s by no means a done deal. He has to fight for it like anyone else would. We welcome him to the race, but our party prides itself in being different from the other two,” Sarwark claimed. “There’s no back-room deals, no party leadership putting thumbs on the scale. It’s a clean fight for the nomination.”
However, in practice, defectors from the Republican Party with a past record of elected office have had an easy path to the Libertarian presidential nomination, with Gov. Gary Johnson securing the nomination in 2016 and 2012, and Barr being nominated in 2008 before returning to the Republican Party. Sarwark admitted that Amash’s national status “automatically” made him a strong contender.