Voters on Tuesday will decide the political fate of three House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump last year for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.
Reps. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., all face Trump-backed primary challengers as the contests mark the latest test of the former president’s influence in GOP election.
After Tuesday, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., will be the last House Republican to support impeachment who still faces a primary. Cheney, vice chairman of the committee investigating the deadly insurgency and Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, faced particularly tough headwinds in his home state of Wyoming. These qualifiers are on August 16th.
Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, John Katko, RN.Y., Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., all chose to retire at the end of their terms. Rep. Tom Rice, RSC, lost to a Trump-backed challenger in June, while Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., avoided a primary challenge that same month, though Trump did not endorse him in his race.
Like other impeachment advocates, Meijer, Beutler and Newhouse have upstaged their Trump-backed opponents. Federal campaign finance records show Meijer has outraised his challenger, John Gibbs, in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District by more than $2 million. Meijer raised $2.77 million through mid-July, while Gibbs totaled $484,000.
In Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, Beutler outraised Trump-backed challenger Joe Kent by about $1.3 million, with Beutler having $3.5 million and Kent raising $2.2 million of the mid July.
And in Washington’s 4th Congressional District, Newhouse raised about $1.6 million while Trump-backed challenger Lauren Culp raised $310,000 through the middle of last month.
In Washington, people who follow the contests closely say Beutler and Newhouse may benefit from the state’s open, nonpartisan primary system, where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election in the fall.
There are more than half a dozen candidates on the ballot in each district, with more Republicans than Democrats competing. In Beutler’s race, Kent and Republican Heidi St. John, who is also campaigning on a pro-Trump message, could share enough votes to carry Beutler into the fall election.
Caleb Heimlich, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, told NBC News he’s hearing from people on the ground and inside the campaigns that the races remain “very, very competitive in both districts.”
He noted that in Beutler’s area, about $2.5 million in outside space has gone into independent spending in the race’s final two-week sprint, with much of it targeting Kent while some have sought to bolster St. John.
“By not having closed party primaries, you just have a different electorate,” he said. “And so there are some different factors that come into play in this campaign. And you have to compete with all the voters in the district.”
Each of the candidates has a varied electoral history in their districts. Meijer was first elected to Congress in 2020, defeating Democrat Hillary Scholten by 6 points. Beutler, first elected in 2010, defeated her Democratic opponent in 2020 by 13 points. And Newhouse, first elected in 2014, won his last election by nearly 33 points.
Gibbs, Kent and Culp, meanwhile, have promoted the former president’s lies about a tainted election and falsely claimed that President Joe Biden’s victory was illegitimate.
These candidates have closely aligned themselves with the former president, touting support from him and allies. Meijer, Beutler and Newhouse tried to shift the conversation from their impeachment vote to local issues and national issues like inflation.
“Serious times call for serious leadership,” Meijer said he tweeted in June, linking to a campaign ad in which he talked about fighting inflation, curbing government spending and curbing the flow of immigrants at the US-Mexico border.
Democrats, meanwhile, sought to bolster Meijer’s opponent, prompting backlash from some House Democrats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a television ad last month that reinforced Gibbs’ ties to the former president. Meijer’s campaign said the 30-second spot was “clear evidence” that Democrats would much rather face Gibbs than Meijer in the fall.
Only Meijer’s area is considered competitive in the fall. The Cook Political Reporta nonpartisan election analyst, lists Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District as a clear upset race, while both Beutler’s and Newhouse’s districts have been labeled solidly Republican.
Meijer could also be helped by Michigan’s primary system, according to former Michigan GOP executive director Jason Roe.
In Michigan, voters of all stripes have the choice to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. And with Michigan Democrats having few contested primaries to speak of this cycle, more voters could choose to cast ballots in the Republican contest.
“Well, the conventional wisdom is that he’s a dead man walking,” Roe, who was forced out of his job last year to saying the 2020 election wasn’t stolen but that Trump “blew it,” he said, adding, “I’m still giving him an outside chance.”
But Roe said Meijer’s recent votes in support of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage nationwide and a gun safety package were a “huge miscalculation” ahead of a primary where he is already being hammered for crossing Trump.
“He might have been able to get away with one of them,” Roe said. “But you’re doing both. You’re fooling around in impeachment and primary and boy, isn’t he starting to look like the RINO (Republican in Name Only) they say he is?”
In his home state, Heimlich said the contests will test how much those impeachment votes still matter.
“A lot of Republicans were disappointed by that,” he said of Beutler and Newhouse’s support for Trump’s impeachment. “[The] censure vote which is now oh my god i guess 18 months ago? Is that still the defining issue?’