“It’s a new day in West Michigan,” says Hillary Scholten after a big victory over Republican John Gibbs.

“It’s a new day in West Michigan,” says Hillary Scholten after a big victory over Republican John Gibbs.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Calling it a “new day in western Michigan,” Democrat Hillary Scholten on Wednesday celebrated her landslide victory over Republican John Gibbs in western Michigan’s 3rd congressional district, saying it represents a “declarative statement ” on the priorities and values ​​of the region. .

“Guys, it wasn’t close,” Scholten said, speaking to a packed room of supporters at his campaign headquarters on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. “We have a 13-point lead.”

Scholten, an immigration attorney from Grand Rapids, is the first Democrat elected to represent Grand Rapids in Congress since 1974 and the first woman to hold the seat.

She defeated Gibbs, a former Silicon Valley Christian missionary and software engineer who served in the Trump administration, 55% to 42% in Tuesday’s general election, according to the Associated Press.

Related: Hillary Scholten defeats Trump-backed John Gibbs for West Michigan congressional seat

Scholten said his victory sends “a message to our country and to the world about who we are and what we stand for here.”

“We are a community that values ​​service over self, building over tearing down, unity over division,” said Scholten, standing with her husband, Jesse, and sons Wesley, 10. , and James, 12.

“We are a community that cares for the poor, is vulnerable and welcomes the stranger, a community where differences are not feared but valued. We love our country and we will not tolerate anti-Democrat and anti-American extremism here.”

Tuesday’s election was the first for West Michigan’s newly drawn 3rd Congressional District.

While the district has long favored Republicans, it was redrawed by a nonpartisan commission last year following the once-a-decade redistricting process.

The district now includes parts of Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties, and is considered friendlier to Democratic candidates because it includes the cities of Grand Rapids and Muskegon and surrounding suburbs.

Conservative strongholds like Ionia and Barry counties are no longer in the district.

Scholten, 40, positioned herself as a moderate in the race and drew a sharp distinction between herself and Gibbs, who called the 2020 election results “mathematically impossible” and had a history of posting controversial and inflammatory comments online. social.

On the campaign trail, she referred to herself as a person who solves problems with common sense. She advocated supporting abortion rights, lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs, and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

Before Tuesday’s election, both campaigns said the race looked close. But after the polls closed and the results began to come in, Scholten soon took the lead and held it until the AP decided the race in his favor just before 2 am on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Speaking to reporters after her victory speech on Wednesday, Scholten said she felt confident heading into Election Day, but admitted she was “surprised” by the vote totals.

“We felt the momentum building, and I think just given the breadth and depth of the supporters we saw around us, we knew the win would be decisive,” he said. “I’ll admit, even the totals I’m seeing have surprised me.”

Gibbs, who is 43 years old and served as an appointee at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Trump administration, issued a grant statement Wednesday morning.

“I’m proud of what we accomplished against a well-funded opponent who had the full backing of the media and the wealthiest liberals from New York to California, but never garnered as much grassroots support, energy and momentum as we did,” he said. he said in a statement.

Gibbs, who grew up in Lansing, moved to Byron Center last fall to challenge the district’s incumbent congressman, Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Borough of Grand Rapids, in the Republican primary in August.

Despite having little money and name recognition, he capitalized on anger over the Meijer vote to impeach Trump following the January 6 riots at the US Capitol. Gibbs defeated the first-term congressman 52% to 48%.

In the general election, Gibbs spoke on the campaign trail about high gas prices, inflation and crime, saying the Biden administration’s policies are hurting ordinary Americans. He also regularly addressed hot cultural topics such as gender identity and critical race theory, portraying the race between him and Scholten as “crazy versus normal.”

In his award statement, he wished Scholten “the best in representing West Michigan.”

“I’m glad we did our best,” he said. “I love all of our volunteers, supporters and staff. I pray that God strengthen us, encourage us and that his will be fulfilled through this great task.”

While he won’t take office until January, Scholten said he’s already preparing for his time in Washington with an orientation for new House members planned for this weekend. She said she will work to connect with Republican voters who didn’t support her on Election Day.

“I will be representative of all the people here in West Michigan, even if I didn’t get your vote on the campaign trail,” he said. “I look forward to earning your support and trust as a member of Congress.”

Reflecting on her victory, Scholten said “it’s very significant” that she is the first woman elected to represent Grand Rapids in Congress, and that her victory came during an election in which abortion rights were at the center of attention. many voters.

“We’re looking at a complete attack, really, on women’s equality, and it crystallized in our race here against my opponent John Gibbs, who had some of the most extreme views of any candidate this cycle,” she said. . “So it feels really good to beat him by 13 points.”

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