John Gibbs’s Upset in Michigan Is No Surprise to Values Voters
Primary elections serve a significant role in our constitutional republic. Representing the views and priorities of 330 million Americans can sometimes be a tall order for the two major political parties. In the party primaries, though, candidates have an opportunity to distinguish themselves by appealing to certain constituencies — and hopefully, if they win — to a broader electorate on Election Day.
In recent years, the battle for control within each political party has mainly been between the activist base and the constellation of well-connected donors and their attendant special interests. These primaries give us a glimpse into how that contest is playing out. Polling can give you a glimpse into how a sampling of voters feel, but election night is when the voices of millions of Americans are heard.
While some results from this Tuesday’s primaries stung — like the failure of Kansas’s pro-life “Value Them Both” amendment — other results show that the appetite for bold advocates for faith, family, and freedom in Washington, D.C. is alive and well. Take the results of the GOP primary in Michigan’s 3rd congressional district, for example. Freshman Republican incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer lost his primary bid by three points to John Gibbs — a businessman, Christian missionary, and Trump administration alumni. Meijer’s loss has drawn attention from the media because he found himself on opposite sides of former President Trump when he voted for impeachment after only being in Congress for a few days. But that vote is certainly not the whole story.
Though just a House freshman, Meijer repeatedly took positions antithetical to his own party’s platform and the priorities of your average Republican primary voter. Meijer is a co-sponsor of the so-called “Fairness for All Act,” a bill that would gut religious freedom in what supporters call a “compromise” on LGBT issues. More recently, Meijer voted for the Democrats’ radical “Respect for Marriage Act” which would enshrine same-sex marriage into law — putting himself at odds with the entire conservative coalition. On this year’s FRC Action scorecard, he earned a mere 76%. Often the most conservative candidate with the ability to win a general election prevails in a primary, and that is exactly what happened to Meijer.
Replacing Meijer is Gibbs, who was able to pass the competency test for voters. But, aside from his impressive resumé and endorsements (he was endorsed by Trump and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson), where Gibbs truly differentiated himself from Meijer was on his commitments to stand for faith, family, and freedom. Gibbs — often appearing in interviews wearing a crucifix — is unashamed to talk about God, ask for prayer, oppose legislation like the “Fairness for All Act,” defend the family, and the sanctity of life.
To emphasize the magnitude of Gibbs’s win, consider the fact that incumbents typically enjoy a near absolute advantage in their reelection efforts. In fact, in 2020, 100% of Michigan’s incumbents won reelection. Additionally, Meijer enjoyed other advantages, namely a sizable financial advantage — his campaign raised $2.4 million to Gibbs’s $484,300 — and name recognition (his grandfather started the Meijer supermarket chain). Ultimately, neither incumbency, nor vast financial resources, nor having his name emblazoned on grocery stores mattered to GOP primary voters looking for a candidate to represent their values in Washington.
Gibbs’s win is yet another indication that the GOP’s pro-family priorities are winning over grassroots activists who knock on doors, contribute small dollar donations, and engage for strong conservative candidates.
As primary season wraps up and most states have solidified their general election ballots, the contrast between the parties will become even starker. One party clings to power thanks to the approval of white, college-educated voters, primarily in urban areas. They propose new taxes and spending to (apparently) deal with inflation, seek to crush religious freedom, redefine marriage, impose radical gender ideology on other people’s children, bankrupt the oil and gas industry, and extend abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
Meanwhile, the other party is forming a coalition of working-class voters from all backgrounds who understand a nation needs borders, election integrity is indispensable to public confidence, men can’t get pregnant, women deserve the right to compete in sports against other female athletes exclusively, children cannot consent to sterilizing gender transitions, marriage is a pre-political institution of one man and one woman, and that life begins at conception — all pretty standard stuff to your average GOP primary voter.
It’s no wonder, then, that John Gibbs sent Peter Meijer packing last night. He draws a much sharper contrast to the opposing party — who’s only promise is to attack the foundations that make America special.
Matt Carpenter is the director of FRC Action.