NewsElection 2022


'Literally a 50/50 district': All eyes on Michigan's 3rd Congressional District race

Peter Meijer and John Gibbs fight for top GOP spot in district
Posted at 7:42 AM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 08:27:40-04

The August primary is one week away and voters will have the opportunity to choose their party's top candidates before the November general election. One of the nation's most closely watched primary races is in West Michigan in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District.

Every 10 years Michigan's political districts are redrawn, reflecting the latest census counts. In previous years state legislators handled the redistricting, which for past several decades have been republican led.

"The last 30 or 40 years the districts have been roughly the same," Calvin University political science professor Dr. Doug Koopman said.

However in 2018, for the first time, a constitutional amendment transferred that power to the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and five members not belonging to a major political party.

Michigan districts before 2020 redrawing and after
Michigan districts before 2020 redrawing and after

Due to the redrawing of the districts, people may be voting in a different district this year. This especially holds true for Michigan's 3rd Congressional District that used to cover most of Kent County along with Ionia, Barry and Calhoun counties. The redrawn district still represents most of Kent County, but now also goes west, all the way to the lakeshore with parts of Muskegon and Ottawa counties, completely changing the make up of the district.

Michigan's 3rd Congressional District before and after redrawing
Michigan's 3rd Congressional District before and after redrawing

“All of the sudden, that gives you more Democratic voters and makes the district from pretty safe Republican, to really a toss up," Dr. Koopman said.

A Democrat hasn't represented the 3rd Congressional District since 1993 and with the political maps pushing it into a toss up, the upcoming primary election becomes all the most crucial. Republican incumbent Peter Meijer faces off against Trump-endorsed challenger John Gibbs.

“We'll have a spirited race here in West Michigan," Rep. Meijer said.

Gibbs is running for the first time for Congress, he formerly worked for the Trump administration.

“Peter Meijer has no shot," Gibbs said. "The Republicans feel betrayed by him will never support him in the general election.”

The betrayal Gibbs is referring to is Meijer's vote to impeach former President Trump after the January 6th Insurrection. Several GOP organizations, including Muskegon County GOP, dropped their support for the congressman. Meijer stands by his decision.

“January 6 was my third day in office that was a dark and shameful day for the country," Meijer said. "I think it's important that members of Congress be consistent. I think it's important that members of Congress tell the truth to their constituents and don't wink and nod at things they don't believe.”

After his time with the Trump Administration, Gibbs was recruited by Trump staffers to move to West Michigan and run against Meijer in the primary. He moved back to Michigan in the summer of 2021, after having roots here growing up.

"The Trump endorsement no doubt is a positive thing," Gibbs said.

Back in April, a Detroit Regional Chamber poll showed that nearly 60 percent of Michigan Republican voters said a Trump endorsement would be important in how they voted in the gubernatorial primary. Meijer isn't swayed by the statistic and believes he has stood firm on his beliefs.

“I think it's important that members of Congress be consistent," Rep. Meijer said. "I think it's important that members of Congress tell the truth to their constituents and don't kind of wink and nod at things they don't believe,"

Although similar in most ideals like supporting the overturning of Roe v. Wade and being frustrated with Biden's policies, the two candidates differ most in their support of Trump and the 2020 election results.

Gibbs still believes mathematically, Trump should've won the 2020 election, although election fraud has been disproven after the 2020 election at the local, state and federal levels. When asked if Gibbs would accept the results of the primary election, he said he hopes so, but isn't sure.

"I believe that there's going to be lots of poll challengers, poll watchers out there, election inspectors and maybe other folks looking at the election to make sure it is [fair]. That remains to be seen," Gibbs said.

No matter who wins the primary, the winner will face off against Democratic challenger Hillary Scholten and that race will be the one to watch in the new toss-up district.

“There will be a lot of attention to this race," Dr. Koopman said. “Kent County is a microcosm of what's going on in the country.”

Michigan's Primary elections take place August 2nd.