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Three of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump last year face tough primaries on Tuesday, competing against Trump-endorsed challengers in crowded fields.
So far, four of the 10 have opted to retire, two have overcome primary challenges to get to November and one did not. Since leaving office, Trump has wielded his power against the Republicans he thinks crossed him.
Tuesday’s races feature two lawmakers from Washington and one from Michigan and are expected to be closely watched as yet another test of Trump’s influence with GOP voters.
Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.)
Meijer, who is facing off against Trump-endorsed John Gibbs in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, was the only first-term Republican representative to vote to impeach the former president, setting off a wave of opposition from fellow Michigan Republicans, including county-level GOP groups that have censured him.
Gibbs is one of the election deniers Democrats have taken the controversial step of backing in hopes of propping up a candidate they think will be easier to defeat in November.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released a TV ad earlier this year characterizing Gibbs as a Trump ally who is too conservative for the district, in a wink to Republican voters upset with Meijer for his lack of loyalty to the former president.
The tactic has drawn pushback from within both parties.
“The DCCC boosting John Gibbs is clear evidence of who Nancy Pelosi prefers in this race,” Meijer spokeswoman Emily Taylor told NPR. “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.”
Polls earlier this year, before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol began public hearings, show Meijer’s impeachment vote is likely a liability.
Progressive polling agency Impact Research found in a February survey published by Politico that 60 percent of voters said they would support an opponent of Meijer, while only 26 percent said they support Meijer.
When told about Meijer’s vote to impeach Trump, Meijer’s support dropped to 21 percent, and Gibbs garnered 52 percent.
Still, Meijer has an incumbency and financial advantage in Michigan, where his family owns a supermarket chain.
As of June 30, Meijer had raised about $2.9 million compared to $444,000 for Gibbs.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has supported Meijer through his Majority Committee PAC, along with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and former GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman (Va.).
Meijer hasn’t backed down in the 18 months since his impeachment vote. Asked by CNN earlier this month if he regretted voting for Trump’s impeachment, Meijer said, “Not for a second.”
Gibbs told CNN that the impeachment vote “catastrophically” damaged Meijer’s ability to be reelected, saying, “I think it was the biggest career-ending move in history, possibly, for him to do that.”
“Meyer has been a terrible representative of the Republican Party and beyond,” Trump said in his endorsement of Gibbs in November, misspelling Meijer’s last name.
Michigan’s redrawn 3rd Congressional District now leans more blue, and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates it as a “toss-up.”
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.)
Herrera Beutler faces four Republicans and three Democrats in what’s known as a jungle primary, in which the top two vote-getters of any party advance to the general election.
But her top competition in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District is thought to be Trump endorsee Joe Kent.
Trump held a telephone rally for Kent on Monday, during which he called the candidate a “tough cookie with a big, fat, beautiful heart,” according to Washington newspaper The Reflector.
Trump said Herrera Beutler, on the other hand, is in line with “fake Republicans,” including Cheney and Kinzinger, both of whom are members of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The Washington State Republican Party condemned Beutler last year for her support of Trump’s impeachment.
“She fights for the Washington swamp, not for the Washington state,” Trump said of Beutler.
A poll in May conducted by the Trafalgar Group found Kent at 27.6 percent support and Beutler at 21.9, with a remaining 19.6 percent of respondents saying that they are undecided.
A super political action committee, Conservatives for a Stronger America, has newly cropped up in support of a third major GOP candidate, Heidi St. John, boosting her publicity as the primary approaches and attacking Kent for his positions, according to The Associated Press.
Kent has been criticized for concerning ties reported by King 5 Washington news, including to a campaign consultant who was a member of the Proud Boys.
The 3rd District is considered fairly moderate, voting for Trump in 2020 by 4 percentage points, so far-right candidate and army veteran Kent’s fate is yet to be determined.
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez is considered the top Democratic contender for Herrera Beutler’s seat.
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.)
Newhouse will face off in Washington’s 4th Congressional District against former police chief Loren Culp, endorsed by Trump for his support of gun rights and denial of President Biden’s election victory in 2020.
Culp refused to enforce gun laws in 2018 during his tenure as police chief, The Seattle Times reported at the time.
Four-term congressman Newhouse has raised significantly more money than Culp, who ran for governor of Washington in 2020, although Culp’s internal polling shows him leading the field.
An April poll by Spry Strategies, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based polling firm, found Culp ahead with 28.1 percent and Newhouse the runner-up with 19.7 percent, with a full 22.6 percent saying they were undecided.
Head-to-head, Culp led by 1 percentage point at 38.3, with Newhouse at 37.3 and 24.4 percent remaining undecided.
The two face five other Republicans and Democrat Doug White.
The jungle primary could allow two Republicans to advance to the general election if the Democratic candidate lags behind.
Former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler is another top Republican candidate in the primary, pledging to maintain a focus on decentralization in Congress.
The Sessler campaign released polling numbers in June showing White leading the field with 23.9 percent of voter support, according to Washington newspaper The Spokesman-Review.
Sessler followed with 23.1 percent, ahead of Newhouse with 19.8 percent and Culp with 13.7.
Sessler has been endorsed by Trump-linked figures, including lobbyist Roger Stone and former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
Newhouse, who has been in office since 2014, has faced resistance from fellow party members since his vote to impeach Trump, after which Washington Republicans called on the representative to resign.