Tuesday’s primaries mark the biggest one-day electoral test so far for the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach President Donald Trump.
Three of them are on the ballot Tuesday: Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington state and Peter Meijer of Michigan. They will find out whether they will survive primary challenges from Trump-backed opponents, as outside groups have rushed millions to their races.
Freshman Meijer faces the most peril. Not only does the grocery chain scion have a difficult primary against John Gibbs, a former Housing and Urban Development official under the Trump administration, but his district also became more Democratic-leaning during redistricting, making him vulnerable all around.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse also face stiff competition in their primaries Tuesday, but their state’s nominating system takes the top two finishers from an all-party contest, offering them some advantage to getting on the November ballots. If they survive their primaries, both should have a smooth reelection in the fall in their solid GOP seats.
Offering a sense of the electoral hazards for Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, four of the 10 opted not to run for reelection. One, so far, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, has lost a primary. One has survived an all-party primary: California Rep. David Valadao. And Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney will face voters Aug. 16 in a race where she has become the underdog to a Trump-backed challenger.
“Tuesday’s primaries could confirm an emerging trend: Republicans who voted to impeach Trump either don’t seek reelection or lose in traditional primaries,” Nathan L. Gonzales, CQ Roll Call’s elections analyst, said in an email. “Pro-impeachment Republicans who have the luxury of running in states with nontraditional primaries (and don’t have to rely on support from base GOP voters) have a chance to survive. That’s good news for Herrera Beutler and Newhouse and bad news for Meijer, and later Cheney.”
Meijer, who was the only freshman Republican to vote for impeachment, has significantly outraised Gibbs and enjoys high name recognition in the district. Still, Gibbs has seized on Meijer’s impeachment vote against Trump and other votes with the House Democratic majority. Gibbs’ campaign has circulated polling showing him with a lead in the 3rd District primary that grew when likely Republican voters learned about Trump’s endorsement.
Meijer’s allies have sought to tighten the race. Outside groups, including one with apparent ties to his family, have spent at least $3 million supporting his campaign and opposing Gibbs.
Included in that spending is a $425,000 television ad buy from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee appearing to be an attack on Gibbs by tying him to Trump but which could ultimately sway Republican primary voters to support him over Meijer.
Principled Leadership for Michigan has countered with a similar-sized ad buy calling Gibbs the Democrats’ “hand-picked candidate for Congress in the Republican primary,” according to Daily Kos Elections.
The primary winner is set to face Hillary Scholten, a former Department of Justice attorney who lost to Meijer by 6 points in 2020. She’s running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
In Washington state, the outside expenditures reveal that both Herrera Beutler and Newhouse have legitimate worries. Herrera Beutler faces eight candidates in the 3rd District, but it’s fellow Republican Joe Kent who poses the biggest challenge with his endorsement from Trump.
The Winning for Women Action Fund has been the top outside spender in the race, disclosing more than $1.7 million in attack ads against Kent and an additional $300,000 spent in support of Herrera Beutler. Outside groups had disclosed spending more than $3.8 million on the race as of Friday.
Herrera Beutler has the most in her campaign account, holding $1 million as of July 13 out of $3.5 million in total receipts, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Kent, a right-wing Army veteran, had $350,000 as of that date after hauling in a total of $2.3 million, including $200,000 in candidate loans.
Newhouse is in an all-party primary with seven other candidates for the 4th District, including two well-funded Republicans. One of them, former police chief and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp, has Trump’s endorsement. Defending Main Street’s super PAC has been the top spender in the race, with more than $1.2 million in attacks against Culp or messages in support of Newhouse.
After raising $1.6 million, Newhouse had $600,000 cash on hand as of July 13. Culp had just $45,000 left out of $310,000 raised. Another Republican, Jerrod Sessler, had total receipts of $500,000 (with most of that in candidate loans) and was down to $25,000 on July 13. Democrat Doug White hauled in about $400,000 with $110,000 left on July 13, according to FEC reports.
Sarah Chamberlain, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street group, said the ads aimed to spotlight Newhouse’s views on issues that matter to the district’s voters, including those relating to the Snake River dams and Newhouse’s support for a bill that would limit Chinese purchases of U.S. farmland.
Even though Inside Elections rates the 4th District race Solid Republican for November, Chamberlain said the primary is a pivotal contest. If Newhouse doesn’t make it on the ballot, she added, “a Democrat will pick up that seat.”