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A Grand Rapids area businessman and arena owner is joining the race to unseat newly independent U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, knocking the longtime former Republican congressman who has "abandoned" the president and his party.

Joel Langlois touted his business background Tuesday as he became the fifth Republican candidate to enter the field in Michigan's 3rd District, which covers the Grand Rapids area.

The political newcomer argued he was one of President Donald Trump's "earliest supporters" and proud to host him for rallies dating back to 2015 at the DeltaPlex arena and convention center in Walker. 

"Our current congressman abandoned President Trump and abandoned the Republican Party," Langlois said in a campaign statement. "We need a U.S. Congress and local congressman who will stand up for our conservative principles and have the president's back. West Michigan must not replace one 'Never-Trumper' with another."

The announcement comes less than a week after U.S. Army veteran Peter Meijer, grandson of the retailer Fred Meijer, declared his campaign for Congress. Other candidates in the growing field of Republican challengers are State Reps. Lynn Afendoulis of Grand Rapids Township and Jim Lower of Greenville as well as former Sand Lake Village Trustee Tom Norton.

Lower's campaign attempted to undercut Langlois' announcement by saying it had raised more than $200,000 in 40 days from contributors including former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser and a $5,000 donation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Four Democratic candidates have declared, including Nick Colvin, an attorney who formerly worked in the Obama White House Counsel's office, and immigration attorney Hillary Scholten

Amash, who is running for reelection for a sixth term in the U.S. House, said July 4 that he was breaking with the Republican Party to pursue a run for office as an independent candidate. In an essay for the Washington Post, Amash said the two-party system "has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions."

Trump responded on Twitter that it was "great news" that Amash, "one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is 'quitting' the Party."

Langlois said Tuesday that he's "fully committed" to working with Trump by fighting for lower taxes, more limited government and small business empowerment. He also said he supports a stronger border and wants to "build the wall."

Langlois is a married father of four who also owns manufacturing companies and real estate holdings, which potentially could help finance his campaign. 

He's also served boards and committees including the Kent County Sheriff Department Traffic Squad, West Michigan Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Charities West Michigan.

Amash has drawn scorn from some GOP leaders since becoming the sole Republican in Congress to call for Trump's impeachment. 

Amash told CNN Sunday that he's "very confident" he can win reelection as an independent. 

“I feel a close tie to my community. I care a lot about my community. I want to represent them in Congress,” he said.

In a 2016 Michigan Trump campaign director Scott Hagerstrom said Langlois has been behind Trump from the beginning and "was a key piece to helping us win Michigan in 2016."

"I have no doubt Joel will continue to have President Trump's back, which is why I'm supporting him for Congress," Hagerstrom said.  

cferretti@detroitnews.com

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