Grand Rapids business group skips endorsements in closely-watched congressional race

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s PAC is not backing a candidate in the high-profile congressional race between Republican John Gibbs and Democrat Hillary Scholten.

The political action committee, Friends of Business in Western Michigan, has historically supported Republicans in third-term congressional district races, but this time it chose not to support either candidate. In addition, two other groups that previously supported Republican candidates in the region, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Area Chamber of Commerce, also entered the race.

Joshua Lunger, vice president of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, declined to discuss the decision not to support Gibbs or Scholten.

“We declined to comment further,” he said.

Gibbs and Scholten will be in the November 8 election for the West Michigan Assembly District. The newly designated area includes parts of Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties, including Grand Rapids, Muskegon and the city of Grand Haven.

While political observers say the district favors Democrats, Scholten and Gibbs appear to be locked in a tight race, with both candidates struggling to appeal to moderate voters.

The race is closely watched after Gibbs, who works in President Donald Trump’s administration, defeated the Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer in the August primary. Gibbs challenged Major, who was first elected in 2020, unhappy with the first-term congressman who voted to impeach Trump after Jan. 1. 6 Riots at the U.S. Capitol.

In response to the Chamber’s decision, both candidates touted their credentials.

“For the first time in history, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce did not support a Republican in the race for a Grand Rapids congressional seat. That speaks volumes,” Scholten’s campaign said in a statement.

“Hillary has broad and deep support from leaders in Grand Rapids — from the mayor to leaders in business, healthcare, and the public and private sectors. Her support across the region is a testament to her deep roots, her people relationship and her great support in the local community.”

Lunger said he couldn’t recall an instance where the House backed Democrats in the 3rd Congressional District. However, the chamber’s political action committee has previously skipped endorsements in the campaign.

For example, it does not support the former U.S. House of Representatives. The Chamber’s website shows that either Justin Amash or Democrat Cathy Albro ran in the November 2018 election.

A statement provided by Gibbs spokeswoman AnneMarie Schieber said Gibbs “has been working hard to win over ordinary people and businesses.”

“Hillary Scholten is the quintessential Nancy Pelosi tax and spending liberal whose job-killing, inflation-triggering policies will hurt great Western Michigan businesses and workers,” the statement said. “John looks forward to the future. Work with the Chamber of Commerce to promote employment and business growth.”

Jas Bolger, a longtime Republican, a resident of the district and a former Michigan House speaker, said the Chamber’s decision to support showed concerns for both candidates.

“I don’t want to speak for them because I was not involved in this decision. However, what I get out of this is that these business groups are worried about Hillary Scholten’s policies and I don’t feel that they are worried about some of the statements from John Gibbs Surprised,” he said. “So my guess is that that’s what’s influencing it.”

In general, Scholten and other Democrats are being targeted by high oil prices and inflation that have soared under President Joe Biden. Scholten has also been criticized for her work as an immigration lawyer, with attack ads falsely claiming she “glorified” the mob who ravaged downtown Grand Rapids in May 2020 following the death of George Floyd.

Gibbs faces scrutiny for responding to Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen. He also posted conspiracy theories on social media and made derogatory comments about Islam and the Democratic Party.

As a Stanford student, he created a think tank in which he argued that America has suffered since women got the right to vote and that women shouldn’t be allowed in, CNN reported. workplace. He has since denied the remarks, saying he made them to “provoke the left on campus.”

Gibbs was born and raised in Lansing. He did not live in West Michigan before moving to the area to run for office last fall.

“No support is more telling than support,” said Allie Walker, vice president of Detroit-based PR firm Truscott Rossman.

“Knowing that they chose not to support it leads me to believe that no candidate is fully aligned with the policy goals, values ​​and legislation and what they hope to achieve in the next year,” she said. “When I see them take a position for or against someone, it makes me, as a resident and a voter in the area, really stop to think and look at the candidate’s policies.”

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