Arab American congressman abandons presidential run citing COVID-19 obstacles

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US Congressman Justin Amash, an American of Syrian and Palestinian descent, announced Saturday he was abandoning his plans to run as a third-party candidate in November’s presidential elections.

Amash, a former Republican turned independent congressman from Michigan, said the current circumstances due to COVID-19 “don’t lend themselves” to a successful third-party candidacy.

“The new reality of social distancing levels…means lesser known candidates are more dependent on adequate media opportunities to reach people,” said Amash in a post on Twitter.

“At the same time, fundraising challenges posed by an idled economy will hinder advertising,” he added.

Amash announced on April 28 he would seek the Libertarian nomination for the 2020 US presidential elections and had formed a presidential exploratory committee.

The Libertarian Party, which promotes civil liberties and limited government, is often seen as an alternative to the traditional Republican and Democratic parties. No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever secured the top office of the United States.

Amash said he believes a presidential candidate “from outside the old parties…can break through in the right environment.”

“But this environment presents extraordinary challenges,” he said.

Amash, whose father was a Palestinian refugee and mother is a Syrian immigrant, first took office in 2011 as a Republican representing Michigan’s third congressional district. He has been a vocal critic of US President Donald Trump, and even voted to impeach him in December, becoming the only non-Democrat in the House of Representatives to do so.

In this June 12, 2019, file photo, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., listens to debate on Capitol Hill in Washington. (File photo: AFP)
In this June 12, 2019, file photo, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., listens to debate on Capitol Hill in Washington. (File photo: AFP)

Amash left the Republican party in July 2019, saying he had “become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it.”

“The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions,” Amash wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

Trump said at the time that Amash’s exit was “great news” for the Party.

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