Why Democrats are helping a far-right candidate defeat Rep. Meijer in West Michigan primary

It’s a risky, bold move that could backfire

Jul 26, 2022 at 12:51 pm
U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, left, and his Republican challenger John Gibbs. - Twitter
U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, left, and his Republican challenger John Gibbs.

National Democrats are meddling in a Republican congressional primary race featuring moderate incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer and a far-right conspiracy theorist endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending at least $425,000 to run TV ads in the Grand Rapids area that promote Republican John Gibbs as a tough-on-immigration, pro-Trump conservative who supports “patriotic” education in schools.

“John Gibbs is too conservative for West Michigan,” a narrator in a TV ad says. “Handpicked by Trump to run for Congress, Gibbs called Trump ‘the greatest president' and worked in Trump’s administration with Ben Carson. Gibbs has promised to push that same conservative agenda in Congress.”

Gibbs, who served in Trump’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has not raised enough money to run TV ads. By contrast, Meijer has raised nearly $2.5 million and has run TV ads for weeks.

The first-term congressman is considered vulnerable in the primary because he voted to impeach Trump for inciting violence during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Democrats believe they have a shot at winning in the general election because Joe Biden defeated Trump in the district.

The idea behind the Democrats’ ad is to boost a candidate who is unlikely to prevail in the general election against Democrat Hillary Scholten. The assumption is that general-election voters won’t support candidates who push baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud.

But it’s a bold, risky move that could backfire if Gibbs wins and is able to defeat Scholten and get a seat in Congress.

"The DCCC boosting John Gibbs is clear evidence of who Nancy Pelosi prefers in this race,” Meijer spokeswoman Emily Taylor tells Metro Times. “Democrats don't want to face Peter Meijer in the November election because Peter is the best candidate to represent West Michigan in Congress, and he's the only candidate who will put the interests of the Third District ahead of partisan priorities. We are confident that voters will see through Democrats' political games while Peter remains focused on the issues that matter most to the people he represents."

This is not the first time Democrats have meddled in Republican primary races this year by promoting far right, pro-Trump candidates. The ads have boosted far right candidates over moderate Republicans in races in California, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

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