Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump last year, has lost to a fervent election denier running with Trump’s support, CNN projected early Wednesday.
Republicans in Michigan and Arizona – two states at the center of Trump’s 2020 election denial campaign – voted on Tuesday in primaries for crucial federal and state contests as the shape of the 2022 midterms comes into focus less than a hundred days from Election Day.
Trump’s pick will win the GOP gubernatorial nod in Michigan, CNN projects. In Arizona, local election officials were still counting votes to determine whether a slate of statewide candidates who were endorsed by Trump and promoted his lies about election fraud won their Republican primaries. But one significant loss so far was that of state House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who delivered emotional testimony before the House January 6 committee about his resolve in the face of enormous pressure to overturn the 2020 results. He’ll lose a GOP state Senate primary, CNN projected early Wednesday.
Trump’s loss in those battleground states two years ago seeded right-wing anger and turned Republican primary campaigns up and down the ballot into referendums on his election lies. Allies of the former President sought offices crucial to the balance of power in Washington and in state governments, where the GOP is hoping to gain control of the election apparatus ahead of the 2024 presidential contest.
With his loss to former Trump administration official John Gibbs, Meijer becomes the second of the so-called “impeachment 10” to lose reelection after South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice lost to a Trump-backed challenger in June.
Two others – Washington Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse – were also facing challengers from their own party on Tuesday, but CNN has not yet projected whether they’ll be advancing to the general election. (Under Washington’s primary system, the top two finishers regardless of party advance to November.)
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, perhaps the most high-profile of the House Republicans to have voted for impeachment because of her role as vice chair of the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, faces a Trump-backed opponent later this month.
One of the impeachment 10 – California Rep. David Valadao – survived earlier this year, advancing to the November election in the Golden State’s top two system, while four of the Republicans who voted for impeachment are not running for reelection.
Meijer’s primary in his western Michigan district had become a flashpoint in both parties’ national infighting because Gibbs was the beneficiary of Democratic meddling. The party’s House campaign arm, believing that Gibbs would be a less viable general election candidate, ran more than $300,000 in ads ostensibly attacking his alliance with Trump with the goal of boosting him in the primary. But that strategy angered some on the left who thought it undermined their broader messaging against political extremism in the GOP, while sparking fears the gamble could backfire if Gibbs makes it to Congress.
As CNN’s KFILE first reported in 2018, Gibbs has a history of conspiratorial and inflammatory tweets and defended a notorious anti-Semitic troll banned by Twitter.
In Michigan’s gubernatorial primary, Trump-backed Tudor Dixon had the support of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and benefited from the disqualification of five would-be candidates after thousands of forged signatures were found on nominating petitions. A conservative commentator who had coalesced support from prominent Republicans in the state, Dixon beat back criticism that she was an establishment candidate who wasn’t “MAGA” enough.
Dixon will be taking on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is seeking a second term. Whitmer is a key piece of the Democratic bulwark against Republican power in Michigan, where the GOP controls both legislative chambers.
Tuesday also provided voters with their first chance to directly respond to the US Supreme Court’s striking down of federal abortion rights earlier this summer – an issue that national Democrats hope will energize their base in the fall. Kansas voters have decided to maintain the right to an abortion in their state’s constitution by voting “no” on a proposed constitutional amendment, CNN projects. The procedure is currently legal up to 22 weeks in Kansas, where people from Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri have traveled for services amid Republican-led efforts to roll back abortion rights.
Senate primaries will set crucial fall matchups
In Missouri, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt will win the GOP Senate nomination, CNN projects. His victory is a relief for national party leadership anxious that former Gov. Eric Greitens would win and then lose the general election in November. Greitens had resigned in 2018 amid a sex scandal and accusations of campaign misconduct and more recently faced allegations of abuse from his ex-wife, which he has denied.
Schmitt and Greitens shared an 11th-hour endorsement from Trump, who said on Monday he was backing “Eric” and leaving it up to voters to decide which one, although both candidates immediately tried to claim the endorsement for themselves.
Echoing a pledge from Greitens, Schmitt – who was endorsed by Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah – said last week that he would not support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for leader.
While Trump hedged his bets, the state’s junior senator, Josh Hawley, suffered a loss after backing Rep. Vicky Hartzler. One of two members of Congress seeking the nomination, she was critical of Trump in the aftermath of January 6, but still voted against certifying the presidential vote and touted her voting record with Trump on the trail.
In Arizona, Republicans are still waiting to see who will take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. The crowded Republican field had been dominated by election deniers. Blake Masters, an acolyte of Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, was Trump’s pick in that race. He faced off with businessman Jim Lamon, who piled cash into a partisan “audit” of the 2020 results in Maricopa County and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who recently returned a report debunking a popular right-wing myth around “dead voters” but has mixed his defenses of the state’s election integrity with indulgences of conspiracy-minded activists.
An Arizona proxy war between Trump and Pence
The race to succeed term-limited Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey split the party, with Ducey and former Vice President Mike Pence endorsing Karrin Taylor Robson and Trump backing former television reporter Kari Lake, whose campaign was fueled by the former President’s election lies.
Down the ballot in Arizona, the favorite for the GOP nomination for secretary of state – and the chance to run the state’s next round of elections – was Trump-backed election-denying state Rep. Mark Finchem, who attended the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington. Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs will win the Democratic nod for governor, CNN projects.
Besides the GOP drama in Michigan’s 3rd District, Meanwhile, in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, Rep. Haley Stevens will defeat fellow Democratic Rep. Andy Levin, CNN projects, in a clash of incumbents that was the latest chapter of a proxy fight between moderates and progressives.
Moderate prevails in member vs. member primary
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had backed Stevens and its new super PAC, United Democracy Project, spent more than $4 million to boost her bid. UDP’s outlay, along with bundling by AIPAC, spurred another pro-Israel group, the liberal J Street, to jump in on Levin’s behalf, splashing $700,000 in a July ad buy for him.
This story has been updated with additional developments.