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Trump-backed challenger unseats Rep. Peter Meijer in Michigan GOP primary

After an impeachment vote against then-President Donald Trump that cast a shadow over his first term in Congress, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) lost to a Trump-backed challenger in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

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

His victory in the 3rd Congressional District, in western Michigan, despite Meijer’s victory huge fundraising advantagetalks about how loyalty to Trump has become a touchstone in the Republican primaries.

“It shows how strongly the voters of this party support Donald Trump and believe the ‘big lie,'” said Jeff Timmer, a former Michigan GOP chairman who left the party after Trump’s 2016 nomination.

In an interview with HuffPost on July 26, Meijer, an Iraq War veteran and heir to a supermarket fortune, ruled out registering to campaign if he lost the primary.

His defeat doubles the number of House Republicans who support impeachment who will lose in a primary. From 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, four are retiring rather than running for re-election. Rep. David Valladao of California survived a right-wing challenge, though not with Trump’s support. And Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina lost his primary to a Trump-backed challenger.

Gibbs is set to face Democratic candidate Hillary Solten, an immigration attorney, in November.

John Gibbs at his campaign headquarters in Byron Center, Michigan, on July 25.

Brittany Greeson for HuffPost

Nonpartisan redistricting made the electorate in Michigan’s new 3rd District boundaries much more Democratic. President Joe Biden would hold the new seat by nearly 9 percentage points.

However, Democrats preferred Scholten to face Gibbs over Meijer, reasoning that Gibbs would be less palatable to moderate voters. To that end, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, spent about $450,000 running a TV ad touting Gibbs’ right-wing credentials. Since Gibbs chose not to spend his modest funds on television, the DCCC spot was the only television ad intended to support Gibbs’ bid.

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

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

Janet and Kim Rush at Family Fare Supermarket in Byron Center, Michigan on July 25. Republican voters said they believed Congress wasted too much time on Democrats’ attacks on Trump.

Brittany Greeson for HuffPost

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

“Too much time was spent in Congress and the House of Representatives trying to bring Trump down when they should have been working on other things,” Kim Rush said.

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