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Peter Meijer concedes to John Gibbs in Republican primary for 3rd Congressional District race

Peter Meijer had the money advantage. He had the name recognition. He had the advantage of incumbency. But early Wednesday morning, Meijer found himself conceding the 3rd Congressional District GOP primary to John Gibbs, a former software developer and administration official during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Meijer's campaign issued a statement around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday conceding the race to Gibbs.

"This was a hard-fought primary campaign, and I want to thank everyone in West Michigan for their support. Representing my hometown in Congress has been a tremendous honor for which I will always be grateful. I also want to congratulate my opponent, John Gibbs, on his victory tonight," Meijer said, according to the statement sent by the campaign.

"Throughout my term, I have strived to always put West Michigan's interests first. I'm proud to have passed multiple bills into law, putting me on track to have more bills passed than any freshman Republican in the House in recent history. I'm proud to have delivered critical resources to communities throughout our district. And I'm proud to have remained true to my principles, even when doing so came at a significant political cost." his statement read.

John Gibbs awaits election results in the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday in Byron Township.
Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
John Gibbs checks election returns at an election day event Tuesday in Byron Center.

Just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, the race was still too close to call, though Gibbs appeared to a slight edge with a lead of more than 5,000 votes.

Meijer addressed reporters around midnight at an election-night party, saying he still had hope his campaign could win the race.

“The race is really close,” Meijer said. “I think it’s probably going to take probably the rest of the evening and maybe into the morning to figure out where the results land.”

Gibbs challenged the incumbent Meijer for the nomination after Meijer became one of only 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump for his role in the attack on the capitol on January 6, 2020.

“He betrayed his voters,” Gibbs said of that impeachment vote Tuesday. “The people that donated money to him, put out yard signs for him, knocked doors for him, expected him to represent their values. But he didn’t do that.”

Gibbs earned Trump’s endorsement in the race, and continued to promote Trump’s false claims about the 2020 presidential election despite audits and court rulings upholding the results.

Tuesday evening, before results started trickling in, Gibbs said he didn’t have concerns about his own race.

“I have no reason to believe that there’s, you know anything nefarious afoot,” Gibbs said. “I will continue to monitor the situation. Many people out there are doing that. We’ve got a record number of poll challengers signed up and election inspectors. It’s been a great effort by the state party over the past many months. So I think that will bear fruit.”

Gibbs said the strength of his campaign, despite a deep funding disadvantage and lack of name recognition, was a sign for other politicians to watch.

“It sends a message that we have to respect the will of the people," Gibbs said. "He had all the money in the world, the establishment backing and whatnot. But the people stood up and spoke. The people said that they would not be bought. This is an important lesson for the powers that be out there to learn, that they’ve really got to respect what the people want.”

Gibbs will face off against Democrat Hillary Scholten in the general election. She was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Scholten lost the race in 2020 to Peter Meijer, but since then the district has been redrawn, and many in her party believe she has a better chance this time around.

Tuesday, she issued a statement challenging the Republican primary winner to a debate. “The voters of Michigan’s Third Congressional District deserve to hear first-hand from my opponent why the Michigan and national GOP continue to put party politics over people’s lives and livelihoods,” Scholten said.

She highlighted abortion rights, jobs, health care access and lowering the cost of prescription drugs as issues she hopes to discuss.

Gibbs said he’s eager for the chance to face Scholten.

“Oh man we’re champing at the bit,” Gibbs said. “I think we’ll have a very, very good time appealing to independents, moderates, and everybody across the spectrum highlighting what she and her party stand for.”

The general election takes place November 8.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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