Great Rapids — John Gibbs, the Trump-endorsed challenger to U.S. Representative Peter Meijer, declares victory in nationally monitored results of the race from West Michigan’s 3rd congressional district.
Politically appointed to former President Donald Trump’s housing and urban development agency, Gibbs ran as an ultra-conservative replacement for incumbent Meijer of Grand Rapids Township, who was one of 10 House Republicans to impeach then-President Donald Trump after Jan. 1. United States Capitol riot on 6 2021.
Gibbs declared victory early Wednesday morning during a watch party at his campaign headquarters in Wyoming, a suburb of Grand Rapids.
Meijer called Gibbs around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday and conceded the run.
The Associated Press still hasn’t called the race; Gibbs had around 53% of the vote to Meijer’s 47%, with around 65% reporting from the constituencies.
Former President Donald Trump called Gibbs to offer his congratulations, adding, “I’ll see you soon. I’m very proud of you, John.”
In a victory speech surrounded by supporters early Wednesday morning, he wished Meijer “the best in his future endeavours.”
“From now on, we face a challenge in November with a Democrat,” he said. “I think it’s going to turn out very favorably for us.”
Gibbs will face a general election in a district President Joe Biden won in 2020 that has been identified as one of the few districts Democrats might be able to flip in a tough election year. Cook’s political report changed the race from a “draw” to a “skinny Democrat” after calling the race for Gibbs.
The contest between Meijer and Gibbs has drawn national attention as the Republican Party continues to grapple with rifts between mainstream conservatives and Trump loyalists. Meijer will be the sixth of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment to leave at the end of his term. Two others will face the primaries on Tuesday.
Trump endorsed Gibbs but notably did not come to Michigan to campaign for him in the final days of the campaign, despite Gibbs’ struggles with fundraising as Meijer and his allies poured in millions to oppose to him.
Dave Wasserman, American editor of the Cook Political Report, tweeted around 10 p.m. that the “biggest surprise of the night so far” was Meijer’s strength in the primary.
“If he keeps up that pace in Kent County he has a great chance of hanging on,” Wasserman wrote.
Gibbs, 43, grew up in Lansing and studied computer science at Stanford University. He worked as a software engineer for Silicon Valley startups and eventually joined Apple to work on the iPhone. Fluent in Japanese, he left California for Japan to serve as a Christian missionary for seven years.
He did a one-year master’s degree in public administration at Harvard University before joining the Trump administration’s HUD, overseeing homeless relief programs and community development block grants. He moved to Byron Center, south of Grand Rapids, after Trump allies recruited him to run against Meijer.
Gibbs presented himself as a Trump-approved replacement who says it was ‘mathematically impossible’ for President Joe Biden to have won the 2020 election and defends voter fraud allegations that have been thrown out by the courts, the courts. legislative inquiries and audits for lack of evidence. .
After dropping off his ballot at Byron Center south of Grand Rapids on Tuesday morning, Gibbs was asked if he would accept the results of this election.
“We’ll see,” he said. “If the elections are up, there will be no problem.”
He framed the race as a battle between the wealthy establishment and a right-wing insurgent base.
“There’s kind of a low-level civil war going on in our party right now,” Gibbs said Monday. “The feeling among the majority of voters is that the party is moving in a direction that no longer represents what ordinary people want.”
Meijer, 34, is the son of executive chairman of Meijer Hypermarkets Inc., Hank Meijer. He grew up in East Grand Rapids, went to Columbia University, and served in an Army intelligence unit in Iraq.
He then worked as a conflict analyst in Afghanistan and earned an MBA from New York University before running to succeed former Republican-turned-Libertarian Republican Justin Amash in 2020.
He presented himself as an effective lawmaker who fought for veterans and pushed back against Biden administration policies that he said contributed to rising inflation and gas prices.
The campaign focuses on “all of my work to strengthen the hand of Congress, to restore some of the checks and balances between branches that have eroded over the years,” he told The News. “We’re talking about looking for real solutions, rather than getting stuck in a realm of rhetoric.”
But he faced backlash within his party for his impeachment vote, cast shortly after Trump supporters swarmed the capital on the third day of Meijer’s term. He stands by that decision, saying it was the only choice that “was right and necessary at the time.”
Outside groups poured more than $3.6 million into the 3rd District GOP primary race, mostly backing Meijer and opposing Gibbs. A de Meijer family-backed political action committee, Principled Leadership for Michigan, spent nearly $1.4 million on the race this cycle.
Meijer’s campaign and PAC leadership have spent more than $2 million so far this cycle, compared to just under $334,000 spent by Gibbs’ campaign.
But last Tuesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it would spend $425,000 to run a Grand Rapids-area TV ad boosting Gibbs last week ahead of the primary.
The ad was a fake attack on Gibbs that was seen by many in both parties as a way to promote his name among Trump’s base. He claimed Gibbs was “too conservative” for West Michigan, but also said he had been “hand-picked” by Trump to run for Congress, worked in his administration, and would continue Trump’s policies. Trump in power.
Meijer called the spending hypocritical. Gibbs said of the announcement, “I don’t know what their strategy is and I don’t care.”
Sue Atkinson, a Grand Rapids Township scrutineer, said she voted for Gibbs.
“I just voted for a change,” Atkinson said. She added that she was under the impression that Meijer assumed he would get support from his community and that she received two to three letters a day from his campaign.
“Then we knew he was scared because he was sending so much mail. That was the biggest deviation.”
Later Tuesday night, Meijer supporters gathered at the Social House Kitchen and Bar in downtown Grand Rapids to watch the results roll in.
State Representative Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming, attended the party. He said he supported Meijer because he is an “honest, humble and good human being”.
“I make mistakes too,” Brann said of Meijer’s impeachment vote, which he disagreed with. “Just because he made a mistake doesn’t mean you’re running away from someone you love.”
About 10 miles south, Gibbs supporters held a watch party at his campaign office atop a real estate office in Wyoming, a suburb of Grand Rapids.
Some fans sang “MAGA” to the tune of “YMCA”, miming the letters with their arms raised. The cheers erupted when early returns showed Gibbs leading 63% to 37% shortly after 9 p.m.
Brenda Wodarski of Rockford was among those dancing.
“If they don’t win, people haven’t done their homework,” she said of Gibbs and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley. “They listen instead of searching. Everyone should do their own research. »
Gibbs and Meijer share similar positions on many conservative policies, including abortion, immigration, inflation and government spending. Both Meijer and Gibbs support the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and do not support exceptions for abortion in cases of rape or incest.
They disagree on the results and fallout of the 2020 presidential election: Gibbs argues that the 2020 election was plagued by fraud and that Trump was the real winner of the national presidential race, despite many multiple audits and court cases at almost all levels of government. find evidence that supports his theory.
Meijer acknowledges that Biden won the election and said trump “bears the responsibility of having incited the insurrection”.
Analysts suspect he is the only candidate with a chance of beating Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten in the general election in the newly formed 3rd, a random draw district.
“If John Gibbs wins this primary, then the Democrats will hold this seat as long as Hillary Scholten is alive on Election Day,” Adrian Hemond, CEO of consulting firm Grassroots Midwest, said last month.
“It’s a hyper-competitive seat, and if Republicans didn’t have a well-heeled incumbent with a great bio and a more moderate tone in this district, they’d be in trouble here. And if Congressman Meijer loses, that’s where they’ll meet.
Michigan freelance writer John Barnes contributed.