As election nears, pressure builds around MI-03 race


Grace Swanson

The two candidates differed sharply on healthcare during the debate on Thursday, Oct. 1.

With fewer than four weeks until election day, Democratic candidate Hillary Scholten and Republican candidate Peter Meijer are taking aim at each other in a close race for the MI-03 congressional seat.

A Sept. 19 We Ask America poll put Meijer seven points ahead of Scholten. Another internal Democratic poll had Scholten leading Meijer by two percentage points.

Both candidates boast numerous endorsements from their respective parties. Scholten recently announced to Chimes the endorsement of Karen Henry Stokes, widow of deceased Republican Congressman Paul Henry. Henry was also a Calvin political science professor and is the namesake for the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics.

“I’ve committed my life to service, and service-oriented leadership is where this campaign begins and ends. That’s why I’m so proud to now be able to say that I have the support of our former Republican Congressman Paul Henry’s widow, Karen Henry Stokes,” Scholten  told Chimes in an email.

At their WOODTV debate on Oct. 1, Scholten called Meijer’s political attack advertisements against her “divisive” and deceptive and criticized his refusal to divest from individual stocks. Likewise, Meijer condemned Scholten’s funding from pro-choice super-PACs and advertisements claiming he wanted to repeal insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Healthcare was the biggest point of contention during the debate, but both candidates agreed that Americans need a second stimulus payment to weather the coronavirus pandemic, that West Michigan’s water and air quality should be protected, and that racial injustice is an ongoing national problem.

“Peter is running to be a maverick on a lot of issues that Gen-Z voters care about, but are seldom discussed in Washington,” said Noad Sadlier, a spokesman for the Meijer campaign.

The candidates’ respective Twitter accounts have criticized mailings and social media ads of the other candidate. Scholten posted a picture of a mailing consisting of a black and white photo of her wearing a highlighted blue mask. The caption read “Just because she’s wearing one of these…” 

My. Opponent. Is. Attacking. Me. For. Wearing. A. Mask. Shameful and unbelievable. I have no words,” Scholten tweeted. The mailing was made by the Michigan Republican Party, not the Meijer campaign.

Meijer tweeted a screen recording where his face is superimposed on an infant that accused him of not caring about the problems that ordinary people face. It was posted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, not the Scholten campaign. Meijer tweeted, “Total cringe content Nancy Pelosi is investing $$$ millions of dark money in to help @HillaryScholten and dupe West Michigan voters into extending Pelosi’s reign.”

Recently, Second Lady Karen Pence campaigned with Meijer. Former Second Lady Jill Biden also visited Grand Rapids and campaigned with Scholten.

Scholten raised $1.5 million last quarter with 87% of the donations being less than $100. Scholten said, “I’m running for Congress because, as a young-ish, middle class mom, I understand firsthand the challenges our community faces. I pay my mortgage and my student loans every month.”

Meijer’s spokesman highlighted the nearly 37,000 meals delivered in the campaign’s emergency food relief operation that ran months earlier. “Peter Meijer stands for exactly what Congress needs more of right now,” Sadlier said. “We need service-oriented leaders who will put their neighbors and their communities first. Peter has served others in some capacity his entire adult life.”

Although running for office during a pandemic is difficult, both Meijer and Scholten feel that they have done a good job reaching their constituents. Both candidates encouraged Michigan residents to register and vote, whether in person or absentee.

This race has gotten national attention, as the presidential election could be decided in the house, in the case of a contested election.

Chimes’ faculty advisor Jesse Holcomb is married to Hillary Scholten. He had no role in this article.