Incumbent - Justin Amash (R-Cascade Township)
Years in office as of 2012 election - 2.
Challenger - Steve Pestka (D-Ada)
Update 8/30/2012 - Amash vs Pestka will face each other in an interesting matchup.
Update 5-16-2012 - The dems will have an interesting moderate vs leftist primary with the winner facing libertarian Amash. This could have some hard feelings in the aftermath. I think Pestka would be the strongest challenge the dems could bring. Amash isn't liked in the establishment, but on the other hand does have some strong core support.
There's some subtle, but significant changes to this district. It's still Kent County based, but sheds Grandville, Wyoming, Walker, and Kentwood to the 2nd District. Kentwood and Wyoming went for Obama. Walker was close. Grandville was solid red. It gains Alpine Township (went for Obama), all of Solon Twp, Sparta Township and Tyrone Township in Kent County, all of which went for McCain. It keeps GOP leaning Ionia and Barry Counties. Most significantly, it gains all of Calhoun County, a swing area, from Tim Walberg (and a couple of rural townships from Upton)
That's potentially bad news for this district, but someone had to take Calhoun County (with Mark Schauer and Mr thinks his bleep don't stink Joe Schwarz), a major thorn in the side of Tim Walberg. Amash drew the short straw and may have to contend with Schauer, Schwarz, or Kate Segal, not to mention some establishment types in Kent County which do not like his more paleo-conservative views compared to the more liberal Ehlers.
I have some concerns with this district. Obama did extremely well in Kent County in 08, being the first democrat to win it in a long, long time. It's been getting more competitive the last 8 years, largely due to Grand Rapids moving from slightly blue to strong democrat, and places like Kentwood, East Grand Rapids, and Wyoming becoming very competitive. The old district overall, including Barry and Ionia Counties had a 2300 vote spread for McCain and 64000 vote spread for Bush. The current one has a 3600 vote spread for Obama and 52000 vote spread for Bush. Amash has a 38000 vote spread in 08 in portions which still represented. This doesn't include Calhoun County.
I expect a tough battle for Amash in 2012. He beat two establishment guys in 2010 with his tea party support. He also announced he was running before Ehlers retired. He was willing to primary the incumbent. There were some defections to the democrat because Amash wasn't part of "the inner circle." It would not surprise me is the dems try and make a run, especially if there's a primary. I think Amash is favored, but I'd call this a lean GOP seat and not a safe one, at least for now. Amash took one for the team in redistricting.