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Michigan's 3rd District GOP Primary: Meijer vs. Gibbs

Multicolor map, detail section from lower Michigan
State of Michigan
A detail from Michigan's Congressional districts, as redrawn after the 2020 census

West Michigan’s Third Congressional District, which after being redrawn covers Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Muskegon and part of the lakeshore, has a competitive primary.

The competition is on the GOP side, pitting incumbent Representative Peter Meijer against candidate John Gibbs. Gibbs has been endorsed by former president Donald Trump.

Meijer was sworn in as a member of the 117th Congress 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,” he said.

Meijer spoke with the Michigan Public Radio Network by phone shortly after his decision. He said considered the timing, due process and political ramifications. Ultimately, he added, 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.”

John Gibbs disapproves.

“It is a big issue. It is the elephant in the room that looms large over everything else,” said Gibbs, who’s been endorsed by Trump and is flanking Meijer to his right.

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

Gibbs questions the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, despite no evidence of widespread fraud.

Meijer is clear on this: President Joe Biden won the election.

“No, it was not stolen. 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,” he said.

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,” he said.

Gibbs was once a missionary in Japan and worked in Silicon Valley as a software develop. He describes his politics this way.

“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.”

Both say the primary race is about leadership.

"We’re running on what we have accomplished while in office in this first freshman term. 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.

“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,” he said.

Appointed by then-president Trump to serve in the Department of Housing and Urban Development as acting assistant secretary for community planning and development, Gibbs recalls HUD receiving $9 billion in Covid relief funding.

“My team acted in record time to get that money out to places all across the United States. We put really good safeguards on it to make sure that it was used for what it was supposed to be used for and made sure that those were solidly in place."

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 quote: "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 both said they’d target gasoline prices by promoting more domestic energy exploration and reducing government spending. The winner will face democrat Hillary Scholten in the November election.