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Hillary Scholten running for Congress in western Michigan

Hillary Scholten
Hillary Scholten

Announcement sets the stage for a potential rematch with first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer.

Democrat Hillary Scholten said Tuesday she will run for a newly drawn U.S. House seat in western Michigan, looking to seize the party’s best shot at representing Grand Rapids in Congress in nearly a half-century.

Her announcement sets the stage for a potential rematch with first-term Republican Rep. Peter Meijer in the midterm election, but on bluer turf after redistricting.

Then-President Donald Trump won Meijer’s current area by 3.2 percentage points in 2020, while Meijer carried it by nearly 6 points. Democrat Joe Biden won the terrain that encompasses the new 3rd District — which includes parts of Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties — by 8 points.

It is considered a tossup in 2022.

Scholten, an attorney who focuses on immigration law, said the coronavirus pandemic has intensified problems including high medical costs and a strain on health care infrastructure. The mother of two school-age kids also pointed to educational and economic challenges over the past two years and an “unprecedented attack on our electoral system, the very bedrock of our democracy.”

“I am running because I know I have the experience, the perspective and the vision needed to lead West Michigan forward together,” Scholten, who worked in the Justice Department during President Barack Obama’s administration, said in an interview Monday before launching her campaign.

Scholten credited Meijer for voting to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, saying she sent him a thank you note. But she said his first year in office showed “core policy differences,” citing his votes against a sweeping elections bill and a $1 trillion infrastructure law that will boost roads, water quality and high-speed internet access.

Meijer has said he opposed the infrastructure bill because Democratic leadership linked it to passage of a larger package of social and environmental initiatives that has since stalled.

Like other Republicans who backed impeachment, he is facing a GOP primary. Trump has endorsed John Gibbs, who was an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during his administration.

Meijer, a veteran who served in Iraq, joined a disaster-response organization and later worked in Afghanistan at a charity supporting the safety of humanitarian aid workers. His great-grandfather and grandfather built the Meijer chain of grocery and general merchandise stores.

Both Meijer and Scholten live in Grand Rapids, which has not sent a Democrat to Congress since the Watergate scandal. Kent County, once reliably Republican, has become more Democratic amid demographic shifts.