GRAND RAPIDS — U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Cascade, announced Tuesday evening that he was looking to secure the Libertarian presidential nomination this November.

While Amash has dreams for the White House, his exit from the District Three race in Michigan creates an open seat in Congress.

Let’s do this. https://t.co/AhpQQhTauh

— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 29, 2020

For the candidates vying to replace Amash, not having to worry about a third-party candidate means they can begin focusing on each other and the rest of the district instead of an incumbent.

There are three major candidates left in the race, including two Republicans who will have to face off in an August primary.

Michigan State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, R-Grand Rapids Township and Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, a U.S. Army veteran and son of Meijer CEO Hank Meijer, each said that their focus will continue to be on the district Amash has represented since 2011.

"This is just one more illustration of Justin's focus -- on his own wants and priorities, not his district's," Afendoulis said in a statement released shortly after Amash’s announcement.

"West Michigan has been yearning for true, engaged leadership. And that's what I'll provide. Together, we will stand firmly with President Trump and we will work hard to re-elect him in November."

While Meijer has not held an elected office before, he’s led the fundraising race, and secured a key endorsement from the wealthy DeVos family, which had backed Amash in the past.

Meijer didn’t mention Amash in a press statement released Tuesday night.

“Our campaign has always been about serving West Michigan, and nothing will change our mission,” Meijer said.

In re news tonight in #MI03:

“Our campaign has always been about serving West Michigan, and nothing will change our mission.”

That’s it. That’s the tweet.

— Peter Meijer (@VoteMeijer) April 29, 2020

For the race’s lone Democratic candidate, Amash’s departure from the race could complicate things. If Amash were to run as a third-party candidate for District Three, there was a chance he could split the Republican vote.

Now, Hillary Scholten, a Grand Rapids-based immigration attorney, has to enter a two-party race in a district that hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in close to 30 years.

“Justin Amash is seeking the Libertarian nomination for president, and we’re now running for an OPEN SEAT,” Scholten said in a fundraising email sent to supporters shortly after Amash’s announcement.

“This means our race is going to be even more competitive than before -- and we’ll have to fend off attacks from national Republicans desperate to prevent this seat from flipping blue.”

With @justinamash vacating his seat to run for President, he's left a vacuum in this toss-up district that will either be filled by a pro-Trump extremist, or me--a proven leader. Together we can win this seat and build a better America for all, but we'll need your help.

— Hillary Scholten (@HillaryScholten) April 29, 2020

Amash’s role in the presidential race is unclear. While Amash left the Republican party last year in part because of his discontent with President Donald Trump, he’s remained one of the more conservative members of Congress, voting to curb government spending in most cases.

It’s possible that Amash could siphon votes from malcontent Republican voters looking for an alternative to Trump, or Democratic voters who appreciate Amash’s vocal opposition to Trump.

Still, in a Morning Consult poll held from April 14 to April 16 among voters, just one percent polled said they’d vote for Amash, while 46 percent said they’d vote for presumptive Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden. In that poll, 42 percent said they’d vote for Trump.

— Contact reporter Arpan Lobo at alobo@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @arpanlobo.