Democrats Aid Far-Right Candidate Against Republican Who Backed Impeachment


The House Democrats’ official campaign arm is stepping into a Western Michigan Republican primary to elevate a candidate endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump against one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him.

The $425,000 advertising run is the latest in a slew of Democratic efforts to draw attention to far-right candidates, hoping that they will be easier to beat in November than more mainstream Republicans. But in this case, it could also be seen as a slap to Representative Peter Meijer, the incumbent in the Grand Rapids-area district who braved blowback from his own party over his vote to impeach Mr. Trump and is now fighting skulduggery from the right and the left.

The ad, which will begin airing on Tuesday and was openly cut and funded by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, proclaims that John Gibbs, who is challenging Mr. Meijer, is “too conservative” for West Michigan. But in tone and content, it is clearly meant to appeal to pro-Trump voters in the Aug. 2 Republican primary, hailing Mr. Gibbs as “handpicked by Trump to run for Congress,” buffing his bona fides as an aide in the Trump administration and promising that he would push “that same conservative agenda in Congress,” including a hard line against illegal immigration and a stand for “patriotic education.”

It is similar to an advertisement run by the House Democratic super PAC that unsuccessfully tried to bolster a pro-Trump candidate against Representative David Valadao in California, another of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment. That ad infuriated even some Democrats.

By law, elected Democrats must stay at arm’s length from the super PAC, known as the House Majority PAC, that was responsible for the ad in Mr. Valadao’s race. But with the Gibbs ad, the campaign committee responsible for it is run by a member of Democratic leadership, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, and the group is far more integrated into official actions.

The Democratic campaign committee refused to comment on the advertisement. But the intent was clear. Mr. Meijer’s redrawn district has shifted from one that narrowly voted for Mr. Trump in 2020 to one that President Biden would have carried by nine percentage points.

The tone of the current ad is bright, but if Mr. Gibbs were to win the primary, the next effort from Democrats is likely to be considerably darker. Mr. Gibbs, who was an aide to former Housing Secretary Ben Carson, could not win confirmation in 2020 to direct Mr. Trump’s Office of Personnel Management over comments he made accusing Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, of taking part in a “Satanic ritual,” and calling Democrats the party of “‘Islam, gender-bending, anti-police, ‘u racist!’”

More recently, Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Meijer clashed over the legitimacy of Mr. Biden’s 2020 victory, which Mr. Gibbs baselessly called “simply mathematically impossible.”

In Pennsylvania, the state’s Democratic Party singled out State Senator Doug Mastriano during his successful quest for the Republican nomination for governor, despite his propagation of false claims about the 2020 election and his presence in Washington during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Polling last month showed that Mr. Mastriano’s race against Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee, appeared to be a dead heat.

Democrats believe that Michigan’s Third District, with its new boundaries, is one of the few in the country that they can take from a Republican, and they are willing to risk electing a Trump-backed election denier with a history of inflammatory remarks to make it easier on their favored candidate, Hillary Scholten.

After Mr. Meijer’s impeachment vote, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, praised Mr. Meijer for what he called “a very impressive display of courage and integrity.”

“Guess that doesn’t count for much when a marginally increased chance of flipping a House seat is on the table,” Mr. Meijer quipped in a text message on Monday.

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