GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Democrat running to represent Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District says the ouster of the Republican incumbent is demonstrative of a fractured Republican party, while the new Republican nominee said it shows people’s frustration with Washington.
John Gibbs defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer in the Tuesday primary to earn the Republican nomination for the seat.
“We saw that the Republican electorate was deeply divided over who they wanted to support,” Hillary Scholten, the Democrat who will face Gibbs in the Nov. 8 general election, told News 8 Wednesday.
But she said she wasn’t surprised by Gibbs’ win, saying he worked hard on the ground to build support.
Gibbs also credited his win to that, saying Meijer’s campaign clearly outspent him but he was on the ground meeting people.
“We got out, we met lots of people and I think we’re proud of that,” he said Wednesday at an event at Kent GOP headquarters. “We’re going to continue doing that. We’re going to keep making the rounds on the district, and letting people know who I am and what’s at stake this November.
“…This November is not going to be so much Democrat versus Republican as crazy versus normal, and I’m a normal guy,” he continued.
Gibbs worked in former President Donald Trump’s administration in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was endorsed by Trump. Meijer was among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, which happened with Meijer was only days into his term.
“I hear from people every single day who tell me, ‘I’m never voting for a Republican again,'” Scholten said. “‘I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me,’ because they feel that it’s gotten too extreme. And I think that the folks who voted for Peter Meijer were expressing that as well. They weren’t in line with the brand of extremism on the Republican side and we want to offer a home to them.”
She said she had heard from some Meijer supporters already Wednesday, asking how they could get involved in her campaign.
Scholten did not have an opponent in the primary.
The 3rd Congressional District has long been a Republican stronghold, but its lines — along with the lines of every legislative district in the state — were redrawn this year, and it looks more friendly to Democrats.
“(West Michigan) is one that really lives up to the motto of putting our country before a party label. It’s the issues that truly matter, working to maintain and shore up our democracy, making our government, our economy work for working families,” Scholten said. “And those are issues that I think individuals that had supported Peter Meijer will find a great home in our campaign.”
GIBBS CONFIDENT IN PLATFORM
A Democratic PAC dumped half a million dollars in to late ads for Gibbs, targeting him as a candidate who may be easier for Scholten to beat than Meijer — to whom she lost in 2020. Gibbs questioned whether those ads had any effect and said Democrats shouldn’t underestimate him.
“There’s a phrase: Never interrupt your enemy while he’s making a mistake,” Gibbs said. “I appeal to everybody: conservatives, independents and even some Democrats.”
Gibbs pointed to a number of issues that he described as bipartisan, though he also seemed to blame them on President Joe Biden’s administration: inflation, gas prices, the war in Ukraine and the U.S.’s messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, high crime.
“We can talk about those issues and solutions to those issues. I think those have broad appeal,” he said.
He said he thinks West Michigan independents who voted for Biden in 2020 will join his side in November.
“It’s like if you stick your hand over a hot stove: you’re not going to do it twice,” Gibbs said.
He also welcomed Meijer’s supporters to join his campaign, saying he was ready to get out, meet them and build bridges. He said he wants to be responsive to a frustrated constituency and create policies that help everyone, not only “those that can afford a lobbyist,” including working across the aisle to make that happen.
“That’s the overall sense you’re hearing out there: They feel that Washington has become really disconnected from the people,” Gibbs said.
In a show of party unity, Meijer introduced Gibbs at the Kent GOP event, shaking his hand, congratulating him on a strong campaign and wishing him luck moving forward.
“This was a hard-fought race, decided by less than 4,000 votes out of over 100,000 cast. It was a long race but a race that John ran very well,” Meijer said.