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Trump-Backed Challenger Defeats Representative Peter Meijer in Michigan GOP Primary

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U.S. Representative Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) speaks with potential voters before an event for the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Grand Rapids on July 26. (Photo: Brittany Greyson for HuffPost)

U.S. Representative Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) speaks with potential voters before an event for the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Grand Rapids on July 26. (Photo: Brittany Greyson for HuffPost)

After a vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump, which cast a shadow over his first term in Congress, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) lost to a Trump-backed challenger in the Republican primary on Tuesday.

The challenger, John Gibbs, a former software engineer and Trump administration official, is a more conservative conservative who believes Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

His victory in the Third Congressional District in western Michigan has become a litmus test for how loyal Trump is to Trump in the Republican primary, despite Meijer’s massive fundraising gains.

Former Michigan GOP president Jeff Timmer left the party in 2016 following Trump’s nomination, saying “it shows that the rank-and-file voters of this party support Donald Trump and believe in the ‘big lie’.”

In an interview with HuffPost on July 26, Meijer, an Iraq War veteran and heir to a supermarket fortune, ruled out a write-in campaign in the event the primary lost.

His defeat doubled the number of pro-impeachment House Republicans to lose in the primary. Four out of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are retiring rather than running for re-election. Representative David Valladao of California survived the right-wing challenge, though not the one backed by Trump. And Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina lost his primary to a Trump-backed challenger.

In November, Gibbs faces Democratic nominee Hillary Sholton, an immigration attorney.

John Gibbs at his campaign headquarters at the Byron Center in Michigan on July 25. (Photo: Brittany Greyson for HuffPost)

John Gibbs at his campaign headquarters at the Byron Center in Michigan on July 25. (Photo: Brittany Greyson for HuffPost)

Nonpartisan redistribution made voters in the new boundaries of Michigan’s third district more Democratic-leaning. President Joe Biden would have led the new seat by about 9 percentage points.

Still, Democrats preferred Scholton to face Gibbs rather than Meijer, arguing that Gibbs would be less palatable to moderate voters. To that end, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, spent about $450,000 airing a TV ad that reflected Gibbs’ right-wing credentials. Since Gibbs chose not to spend his modest amount on television, the DCCC spot was the only TV commercial to support Gibbs’ bid.

In a conversation with voters outside a supermarket in the Grand Rapids suburb of Byron Center, even local Republicans who supported Meijer did not make their decision in terms of Meijer’s electability.

“I don’t like that he was anti-Trump, but I still think he does a good job,” said Ed Dublis, a financial advisor.

Janet and Kim Rush at the Family Fair supermarket in Byron Center in Michigan on July 25. Republican voters said they think Congress wasted too much time on Democratic attacks against Trump. (Photo: Brittany Greyson for HuffPost)

Janet and Kim Rush at the Family Fair supermarket in Byron Center in Michigan on July 25. Republican voters said they think Congress wasted too much time on Democratic attacks against Trump. (Photo: Brittany Greyson for HuffPost)

For Janet and Kim Rush, a retired couple, Meijer’s vote for impeachment was too much to bear.

“A lot of time was spent in Congress and the House of Representatives trying to bring down Trump, while he should have been working on other things,” Kim Rush said.

This article was originally published on HuffPost and has been updated.

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