Another House Republican facing a Trump-backed challenger retires

Six-term Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs drops out a month before primary

Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, will not seek another term in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, will not seek another term in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 6, 2022 at 1:42pm

Ohio GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs said Wednesday he would not seek reelection, making him the second Republican with a primary challenger backed by former President Donald Trump to make such a decision this week.  

Gibbs, first elected during the GOP wave of 2010, remains on the May 3 primary ballot against former Trump administration aide Max Miller in the 7th District. Unlike Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who announced his decision Tuesday not to run this November and who voted to impeach the former president, Gibbs had not apparently gotten on Trump’s enemy list. 

Trump, in a statement, called Gibbs’ tenure in Congress “a wonderful and accomplished career. His retirement, after serving in Congress for more than a decade, should be celebrated by all. He was a strong ally to me and MAGA, voting to support my America First agenda and fighting strongly against the Radical Left. Thank you for your service, Bob—a job well done!”

Miller initially got Trump’s endorsement when he announced he would run against Ohio GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in the 16th District. Miller ended up running in the 7th after a contentious redistricting process that saw the state Supreme Court throw out a map crafted by the Republican-controlled legislature. Gonzalez, who also voted for Trump’s impeachment, is not seeking reelection

Gibbs issued a lengthy statement reflecting on his time in the House and offered some insight into his decision to leave the chamber at the end of the 117th Congress. The congressman said that even though he believed Republicans were poised to win control of the House in the November midterm elections, he found the Ohio Supreme Court’s deliberations over the state’s redistricting process had amounted to a “circus.” 

“It is irresponsible to effectively confirm the congressional map for this election cycle seven days before voting begins, especially in the Seventh Congressional District where almost 90 percent of the electorate is new and nearly two thirds is an area primarily from another district, foreign to any expectations or connection to the current Seventh District,” he said in the statement. 

The state court allowed primaries to go forward using a revised map the legislature crafted even as litigation continues that could later upset them.

“This circus has provided me the opportunity to assess my future,” Gibbs added, saying he would not seek reelection to a seventh term. The 67-year-old said he would “use this opportunity” to spend more time with his wife, his children and grandchildren.

Because early voting has begun in Ohio and Gibbs’ name is on the ballot, any votes for Gibbs will not be counted, according to a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State. The state will notify voters at polling places that Gibbs is no longer a candidate.

Gibbs serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  

The former hog farmer-turned-state lawmaker had previously served on the Agriculture panel. 

He said in his statement that he had “helped reform federal water resources project policy, made clean water utilities more affordable for low-income communities, lowered taxes and red tape for millions of American families and businesses, and fought for a cleaner, safer Lake Erie. I am proud of this work and am grateful for the opportunity to do it on behalf of Ohioans.”

After giving up his seat on the Agriculture Committee, Gibbs continued his efforts to undo federal permitting requirements for the use of pesticides.

On most fiscal matters, Gibbs lined up with mainstream Republicans. He voted for the 2017 tax cut law which included the historic preservation tax credit that assists in revitalizing struggling downtown neighborhoods and restoring historically significant buildings. 

During the four years of Trump’s presidency, Gibbs voted in step with the Trump administration’s preferred outcome on legislation 95.7 percent of the time, according to CQ Vote Watch. He has been a reliable vote for his party since coming to Capitol Hill in 2011. He voted with his fellow Republicans 97.2 percent of the time on measures that split along party lines. 

​​In 1974, Gibbs graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in animal husbandry. “I didn’t grow up on the farm,” he said, according to his CQ profile. “I grew up in a Cleveland suburb. I became a farmer. So I'm either crazy or stupid.”

While working as a hog farmer, he also developed the hobby of building and restoring homes, doing the plumbing and electrical work himself. When he got rid of the hogs, around the time that he started in state government, he continued working as a property manager.

Gibbs burnished his political skills while rising through the Ohio Farm Bureau, starting out as a volunteer on the membership team and ending up as the president of the state-level organization.

After being elected to both the Ohio House and Senate, he decided in 2010 to run in the 18th District. Gibbs earned the Republican nomination by taking 21 percent of the vote to finish atop the eight-candidate field. He beat the runner-up by fewer than 200 votes.

During the 2010 congressional campaign, incumbent Democrat Zack Space won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, but Gibbs appealed to the district’s conservative leanings. He took advantage of a bad year for Democrats nationally — and a worse year for Democrats in Ohio — winning by 13 points, 54-41 percent.

Decennial reapportionment cost Ohio two House seats heading into the 2012 election. Gibbs ran in the newly drawn 7th District, which took in more land to the north and less of Appalachia. 

After being unopposed in 2014, he breezed through his 2016 campaign, winning the general election by a margin of 35 points. In 2018, with a larger national Democratic turnout, Gibbs had a slightly tougher campaign but still won by 17 points. He was reelected in 2020 with nearly 68 percent of the vote.

Jessica Wehrman contributed to this report.