GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With incumbent Rep. Justin Amash no longer running for Congress as a Republican, the primary for the 3rd Congressional District will be one to watch.

There are five Republicans in the field. Four participated in a Tuesday evening debate hosted by WOOD TV8, which included questions submitted by viewers.

  • Rep. Lynn Afendoulis | | Promised to put her experience in government to work for the people of West Michigan.
  • Joe Farrington | | Described himself as a social moderate and fiscal conservative as an alternative to more conservative opponents.
  • Peter Meijer | | Said he believed in limited government and economic freedom and was running to offer solutions.
  • Tom Norton | | Describing himself as a veteran and working class American, he said he was working to support the American dream for everyone.
The Michigan 3rd Congressional District Republican debate at the WOOD TV8 studios in Grand Rapids, Mich. on July 14, 2020. Candidates left to right: Tom Norton, Peter Meijer, Rep. Lynn Afendoulis and Joe Farrington.

Also invited to participate was candidate Emily Rafi, though she did not attend.

Watch a replay of the debate above. Below, find a summary.


Asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, Farrington made it clear he supported it. Afendoulis condemned the downtown Grand Rapids riot and insisted that law and order was necessary. Meijer said he believed the American dream should be accessible to all. Norton said he helped organize a unity rally in Grand Rapids meant to encourage police-community relations. That rally was not well-attended by members of minority groups.

Relatedly, Afendoulis, Meijer and Norton said they opposed slashing funding to police. Farrington said that while he supported police, he argued that calls to “defund police” are not as extreme as often portrayed by conservatives.


While Norton said he wears a mask indoors (though he said he can’t do it for long due to injuries sustained during military service), he slammed Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her response to the virus without the input of the Republican-led Legislature and noted that President Donald Trump has worn a mask. Farrington was dismissive of that claim and derisive of Trump’s handling of the virus. Afendoulis argued Whitmer has overstepped the bounds of her power in responding to the virus.


Farrington said that he would not be voting for Trump, calling him divisive and an “idiot.”

“The guy is a five-time draft dodger,” he said. “He’s also a six-time bankrupt businessman.”

Afendoulis had the opposite opinion, saying she supported Trump and that she believed respect was “critical.” She said Trump has done the things he promised to do.

Meijer, a veteran, said he was running to end conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Trump was also working to do that and he would work with him.

Norton also said he supported Trump, saying the president was getting people back to work amid the pandemic. He said his opponents have not consistently supported the president.


Afendoulis promised she would work respectfully with everyone, even Democrat Joe Biden if he wins the White House.

Meijer said he has worked on bipartisan efforts before and knows what it takes. He said we can’t let divisiveness carry the day.

Norton again cited his unity rally and said he had worked with teachers unions, but also said some of Democrats’ projects need to be shut down.

Farrington promised he would represent everyone in the district and condemned partisan politics as “unAmerican.”


Meijer said while he supported absentee ballots, he believed there should be stronger checks to prevent fraud. Norton said absentee ballots shouldn’t scare candidates. Farrington also said he supported absentee ballots and knocked the president for his consistent opposition to them. Afendoulis said that while absentee ballots could be critical, Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s move to send out more applications was too expensive.


Farrington said there should be no profit in health care. Afendoulis supported market-based solutions to cut costs and improve transparency. Meijer said the Affordable Care Act didn’t actually address the issue of cost in health care and that reform is needed to prevent people from being bankrupted by medical conditions. Norton said every time the government gets involved in health care, the prices go up. He said people should have many more options for buying insurance, including doing it across state lines and as co-ops.


Afendoulis said there are some things the federal government can afford and some it can’t. She said she would not oppose broad spending cuts, which she said can lead to creative ideas. Meijer called with the national debt a drag on the economy and said he supported spending reform and a return to fiscal constraint. Norton said the expansion of the federal government led to waste and that across-the-board cuts were necessary. Farrington said corporate tax cuts should be repealed and the government should live within its means.


Meijer said over-regulation from the government has driven prices higher and that free market solutions would create better products. Norton said he supported Trump’s renegotiation of trade deals with the United States’ neighbors and buying American would help the working class. Farrington said he supported unions. Afendoulis said she would be focused on building an economy that creates jobs.

The primary is Aug. 4. In the race for the 3rd District, Democrats have no primary, which means Hillary Scholten will be the Democratic nominee.