(WASHINGTON) — Three House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump and accuse him of inciting the Capitol riot are on primary ballots Tuesday in Michigan and Washington state — the latest test of the former president’s grip on the GOP and Republican voters.
Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington and Peter Meijer of Michigan all hope to fend off challengers endorsed and boosted by Trump. The three are among the last of the 10 House Republicans who after voting to impeach Trump last year now face voters.
In interviews with ABC News, all three defended the choice that could imperil their political careers — and they haven’t looked back.
“I did what I felt I needed to do,” Herrera Beutler, a six-term congresswoman and senior member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, told ABC News.
“I felt like it was a constitutional duty,” she added. “When you read your oath of office, it says you’re going to protect it and you’re going to defend it. And for me, irrespective of party, it was incredibly important to make sure I’d hold the same standard to a Republican as I would a Democrat.”
In Tuesday’s primary, Herrera Beutler will face the highly funded Joe Kent, a former Green Beret whom Trump encouraged to run for office. Kent has baselessly claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged and that Trump’s subsequent impeachment trial was a sham.
During Trump’s second Senate trial, Herrera Beutler drew criticism from some conservatives for publicly commenting on conversations she had at the time with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, relaying what she said the California Republican told her about his interactions with Trump on Jan. 6.
Herrera Beutler said McCarthy described unsuccessfully “pleading” with Trump to call off the Capitol rioters. (McCarthy later said his Jan. 6 call with Trump was “very short.”)
Democrats tried to seek Herrera Beutler’s testimony but settled for entering her comments into the official record of the Senate trial.
Despite that back-and-forth over McCarthy’s comments, the minority leader still appears to support the congresswoman: from March 2021 to March 2022, his joint fundraising committee raised over $160,000 for her reelection campaign.
In her interview with ABC News, Herrera Beutler would not say whether she would support McCarthy for speaker should Republicans take the House. And while she has largely stayed clear of commenting on Trump or the Capitol riot since her impeachment vote, Herrera Beutler also declined to say whether she would vote for Trump should he run for president again.
“The next 24 hours, the only thing I’m focusing on, honestly, is my race,” she said. “Right now, there isn’t an election in 2024. There’s one in 2022.”
Across the state, Newhouse faces one Democrat and six Republicans, including Loren Culp, a former police chief and GOP candidate who refused to concede his 2020 race against Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.
The Washington incumbents have largely avoided mentioning their votes to impeach Trump while on the campaign trail, opting instead to zero-in on local issues.
“It was a year and a half ago. I’ve been talking about it for over a year. I feel fine, I feel good,” Newhouse told ABC News last week on Capitol Hill.
In Michigan, Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump just 10 days into his first term in Congress, faces John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who Democrats have controversially attempted to spotlight with an ad linking him to Trump, a strategy that even some Democrats have panned.
Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, four have chosen to retire, one was defeated by a substantial margin and another, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — who is leading the House effort to investigate Jan. 6 and whose state swung for Trump in 2020 by nearly 44 points — will face primary voters on Aug. 16.
Newhouse and Herrera Beutler could survive their Trump-backed primary challenges due in part to Washington’s unique voting system. The state’s primary sends the top two vote-getting candidates on to the general election regardless of their party affiliation.
This type of primary system can be “helpful for the incumbents who are perceived as moderate,” Travis Ridout, a political science professor at Washington State University, told ABC News.
California Rep. David Valadao, who as of Tuesday was the only Republican to vote to impeach Trump and survive a primary challenge, may have benefitted from his state’s similar “jungle primary.”
That could leave Meijer of Michigan with the most challenging path to reelection. He needs to survive a head-to-head challenge from Gibbs as well as a general election fight against Democrat Hillary Scholten in a district that added more Democratic voters after the 2020 census.
Speaking to ABC News last week, Meijer argued that his constituents need an independent voice in Congress and “someone who will say the same thing behind closed doors that they will to somebody’s face.”
“That is what I have run to offer. That is what I’ve done while in office,” he said.
“I cast a very difficult vote as a result of what occurred on Jan. 6 and then saw many folks begin to blame-cast or backpedal or make excuses,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what the people deserve.”
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