Voters on Tuesday will decide the political fates of three House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump last year for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., are all competing against Trump-backed primary challengers as the contests mark the latest test of the former president’s influence in GOP elections .
After Tuesday, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., will be the last House Republican who supported impeachment still facing a primary. Cheney, vice chair of the committee investigating the deadly riot and Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, has encountered particularly stiff headwinds back home in Wyoming. That primary is on Aug. 16.
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, John Katko, RN.Y., Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., all opted to retire at the end of their terms. Rep. Tom Rice, RS.C., lost to a Trump-backed challenger in June while Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., staved off a primary challenge that same month, though Trump did not endorse him in his race.
Like other impeachment supporters, Meijer, Beutler and Newhouse have all out-raised their Trump-backed opponents. Federal campaign finance records show Meijer has out-raised his challenger, John Gibbs, in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District by more than $2 million. Meijer raised $2.77 million through mid-July while Gibbs’ haul totaled $484,000.
In Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, Beutler out-raised Trump-backed challenger Joe Kent for roughly $1.3 million, with Beutler bringing in $3.5 million and Kent raising $2.2 million as of mid-July.
And in Washington’s 4th Congressional District, Newhouse raised about $1.6 million while Trump-backed challenger Loren Culp raised $310,000 through the middle of last month.
In Washington, people closely watching the contests say Beutler and Newhouse may benefit from the state’s open, nonpartisan primary system, where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election in the fall.
There are more than a half-dozen candidates on the ballot in each district, with more Republicans than Democrats competing. In Beutler’s race, Kent and Republican Heidi St. John, who is also campaigning on a pro-Trump message, could split enough votes to spring Beutler into the fall election.
Caleb Heimlich, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, told NBC News he’s hearing from people on the ground and within the campaigns that the races remain “very, very competitive in both districts.”
He noted that in Beutler’s district, roughly $2.5 million in outside, independent spending has come in for the race’s final two-week sprint, with much of it aimed at Kent while some has sought to boost St. John.
“With not having a closed party primary, you just have a different electorate,” he said. “And so there are some different factors that play into that campaign. And you have to compete to all the voters in the district.”
Each of the candidates have varying lengths of elected history in their districts. Meijer was first elected to Congress in 2020, defeating Democrat Hillary Scholten by 6 points. Beutler, first elected in 2010, defeated her Democratic rival in 2020 by 13 points. And Newhouse, first elected in 2014, won his last election by nearly 33 points.
Gibbs, Kent and Culp, meanwhile, have all promoted the former president’s lies about a tainted election and falsely suggested President Joe Biden’s victory was illegitimate.
Those candidates have closely tied themselves to the former president, touting support from him and allies. Meijer, Beutler and Newhouse have sought to switch the discussion from their impeachment vote to local issues and national themes like inflation.
“Serious times call for serious leadership,” Meijer tweeted in June, linking to a campaign ad in which he talked about fighting inflation, reining in government spending and curbing the influx of migrants at the US border with Mexico.
Democrats, meanwhile, have sought to boost Meijer’s opponent, which has led to backlash from some Democratic House members. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee placed a TV ad last month that amplified Gibbs’ ties to the former president. Meijer’s campaign said the 30-second spot was “clear evidence” Democrats would much rather face Gibbs than Meijer in the fall.
Only Meijer’s district is viewed as competitive in the fall. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan elections analyzer, lists Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District as a pure toss-up race, while both Beutler’s and Newhouse’s districts are rated as solid Republican.
Meijer could also be helped by Michigan’s primary system, according to former Michigan GOP executive director Jason Roe.
In Michigan, voters of all affiliations have the option to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. And with Michigan Democrats having few contested primaries to speak of this cycle, more crossover voters could choose to vote in the Republican contest.
“Well, the conventional wisdom is he’s a dead man walking,” Roe, who was forced out of his job last year for saying the 2020 election wasn’t stolen but that Trump “blew it,” said, adding, “I give him an outside chance still.”
But Roe said Meijer’s recent votes in support of a bill that would codify legal same-sex marriage nationwide and a gun safety package was a “huge miscalculation” ahead of a primary where he is already being hammered for crossing Trump.
“He might have been able to get away with one of them,” Roe said. “But you do both of them. You lump in impeachment and a primary and boy, doesn’t he start to look like the RINO (Republican in name only) that they say he is?”
In his state, Heimlich said the contests will put to test just how much those impeachment votes still matter.
“A lot of Republicans were frustrated by that,” he said of Beutler’s and Newhouse’s support for impeaching Trump. “[The] impeachment vote that’s now, gosh, I guess 18 months ago? Is that still the defining issue?”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism