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Incumbent Peter Meijer faces Trump-endorsed John Gibbs in GOP congressional primary

Incumbent Congressman Peter Meijer and GOP primary challenger John Gibbs
Michigan Radio
Incumbent Congressman Peter Meijer (L) and GOP primary challenger John Gibbs (R)

West Michigan’s 3rd District Republican Congressional primary pits the incumbent, Rep. Peter Meijer against John Gibbs. Gibbs has been endorsed by former president Donald Trump.

Meijer was sworn in to the 117th Congress as a freshman on January 3, 2021. Three days later, a Pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol attempting to disrupt the Electoral College vote count certifying Democrat Joe Biden as President.

Meijer represents Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District. He was in the Capitol when rioters breached the chamber.

For Meijer, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran deployed to Iraq in 2010, former President Trump’s actions -- and inactions – displayed a lack of leadership. The freshman Republican from Grand Rapids was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.

“I’ll be honest, this is something I agonized over,” Meijer said.

Shortly after his vote to impeach, Meijer said he considered the timing, due process and political ramifications. Ultimately, he said, it was a vote of conscience.

“You know, I read the articles and they were appropriate. They were what we experienced and what happened. I had to vote ‘yes’ and support that impeachment,” he said.

“It is a big issue. It is the elephant in the room that looms large over everything else,” says John Gibbs. He is Meijer's Trump-endorsed primary challenger, flanking Meijer from the right.

“It is extremely hurtful emotionally, every single person who voted for Peter Meijer," Gibbs said. "He didn’t run on going in there to impeach Trump."

Gibbs continues to question the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, despite no evidence of widespread fraud.

Meijer, on the other hand, says it is clear President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

“No, it was not stolen," Meijer said. "I supported, and I would support any candidate who is lodging legal disputes in the wake of an election. I think those are necessary and proper and understandable."

Political observers describe Meijer as a “centrist” or “moderate.” Meijer describes himself as a pragmatist seeking common sense areas on agreement.

“I’m not retreating to a partisan corner, but at the same time not compromising on values, principles or convictions in the process,” Meijer said.

Gibbs was once a missionary in Japan and worked in Silicon Valley as a software developer.

“Some people might call certain beliefs I have as right-leaning or whatever. I guess I will probably be called conservative and that would not be inaccurate. But I just say that I am based on evidence and science and basic American common sense,” Gibbs said.

Both candidates say the primary race is about leadership.

"We’re running on what we have accomplished while in office in this first freshman term," Meijer said, referring to his campaign. "Both successes in terms of delivering results to the district, bringing tens of millions of dollars of federal resources back to west Michigan. Whether that’s to help expand the airport or to extend water mains and remedy PFAS contamination in the Cascade area or support public schools."

Gibbs has also served in the federal government. He was appointed by then President Trump to serve in the Department of Housing and Urban Development as Acting Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development.

“I’ve been hands-on with statutes and regulations and Congressional committees and Senate committees dealing with the interest groups. All that kind of stuff. So, I’ve seen the sausage as it’s being made,” Gibbs said.

In 2020, Gibbs was nominated to head the Office of Personnel Management. During those hearings, Tweets he’d sent during his time as a political commentator came to light, including conspiracy theories. In one tweet in 2016, he described the democratic party as, "Islam, gender-bending, anti-police, ‘u racist!’ ”

Gibbs told the committee those comments were in his past. He said as the grandson of Black sharecroppers he does not tolerate racism. On his website, Gibbs describes Critical Race Theory as a "diabolical scheme."

Both Gibbs and Meijer are opponents of abortion rights and supporters of the 2nd Amendment. Meijer voted for the bipartisan gun bill.

Taming inflation is the top issue for both Gibbs and Meijer. They say they’d target gasoline prices by promoting more domestic energy exploration and reducing government spending.

The winner of the primary will face Democrat Hillary Scholten in the November election.

As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming.
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